There I was, 15-year-old me, knocking on 15-year-old Debbie's front door again for my 18-year-old brother Jay. Making sure it was "safe" so Jay and Debbie could get together.
I hated this, and it had gone wrong before. One night Debbie had invited Jay over to her house, and instead her father had answered the door when I knocked.
"Who the hell are YOU?" he grumbled.
"Is Debbie here?" I asked shakily.
"Get off my porch you fuckin' long-haired little SHIT!" he roared.
"I'm sorry," I said, always polite. "I must have the wrong house." And I freakin' disappeared.
But this night it was safe. We'd scoped the house out for 15 minutes just to make sure there were no parents lurking. Debbie answered the door. "It's OK, come on in," she said, and I turned and waved at Jay to come inside.
Debbie was babysitting some toddler who'd already been put to bed. Debbie was trying to relax -- the smell of pot was in the air.
I didn't like Debbie, but that was OK because she didn't like me either. She just wanted to see Jay, and I understood that. I was the third wheel here for other reasons.
Lots of girls liked Jay, and even an antisocial virginal dummy like me could figure out why. With his long wavy black hair reaching down below his shoulders, his big virile nose, the pack of Marlboros rolled up in his black short-sleeve T-shirt, leaning back against his black '62 Impala SS with the big wide tires on the back ... LOTS of girls fell in love as soon as they saw him. His appearance just screamed BAD BOY. I got that.
Debbie had been one of them. Debbie had long wiry brown hair and was a little big on top. She'd been in some sort of accident that messed up her neck, and she'd had to wear some kind of complicated neck brace for awhile -- and she was grateful that "the cage" didn't keep Jay from talking with her. Though I'm not sure how long they talked. I was the guy who got tossed out of the car whenever they wanted to "talk."
The cage was gone now. But the only time I saw Debbie was when she wanted to pass on the message that she wanted to see Jay -- that her folks would be gone or that she was babysitting somewhere else and she hoped he'd come over. I hated being the go-between for them. And it got to the point where if I ran into her in the crowded hallways at school, I wouldn't meet her eyes, I'd just keep walking. And I'd hear her yell "STUCK UP!" from somewhere behind me.
The only time Jay would see Debbie was when we had no gas money for the Impala and there was nowhere else to go.
That's why I was there. While Jay and Debbie were kissing or Whatever back in the bedroom, I'd be ransacking the rest of the house. Under orders from my brother.
I received these orders early. The first time he and Debbie got together while she was babysitting and started breathing heavily and grabbing at each other, then disappeared to the bedroom, I LEFT. Twenty minutes later, Jay appeared at the front porch at our house, where I was waiting, not wanting to go back inside and face our parents without him.
"Man, don't DO that anymore," he said. "Don't leave me ALONE with her like that."
I started laughing. "Why not?" I asked. "You didn't seem to be in any trouble."
"But man, I WAS," he said. "She wanted to FUCK! ... But I figure while I'm busy with her, you can dig around in stuff, maybe find us some money or something we could sell."
Jay was always desperate for money to fill the gas tank. So if I wanted to go cruising with him, I had to help find ways to put gas in the car. And I didn't have a job. I was still in 10th grade.
So since then, I'd been helping Jay steal gas cans, and looking through cabinets and drawers in the houses where Debbie baby-sat. I'd found a few dollars and some small change, nothing too big. And nobody ever complained about stuff being taken. At least that we heard about.
On this night, Jay and Debbie vanished almost immediately, so I started snooping. I found a few dollars rolled up in one drawer, and some pocket change inside an old incense burner. There wasn't much else, so I started looking at their album collection. The full catalog of Moody Blues albums, a few records by Spooky Tooth (knew nothing about them), some Jefferson Airplane, some Allman Brothers, the Beatles of course.
By this point, I felt kind of distracted, a little airy. I wondered if it was caused by the leftover pot fumes in the air. I wasn't happy to be there, and I was nervous about Debbie's folks coming home unexpectedly -- but suddenly I was relaxed and nothing seemed to matter too much. Strange -- pot had only given me a headache before.
The radio was playing, Casey Kasem's "American Top 40." The Raspberries' great "Overnight Sensation" was playing at Number 29 -- I was confident it'd sell millions. It was the best thing I'd heard in ages. How could it miss?
I drifted into the kitchen, started looking for snacks. Was it The Munchies? Started opening cabinets. Didn't find much. What, no snacks here? These people only eat Real Food?
Jay and Debbie reappeared at some point, quicker than I expected. Jay sat in the living room where I'd found the cash, and lit up a cigarette. I was still looking through cabinets.
Slowly, Debbie crept up behind me and put her arms around my waist. I REALLY hadn't expected THIS.
"Hello," I said falteringly.
"HI," she said warmly. "How are YOU doing out here?"
"Uh ... I'm kind of woozy. Really relaxed, you know? Not quite here."
Debbie laughed. "Could be the pot. You ever been high before? Could be a contact high."
"He usually doesn't toke," Jay told her.
The music was still playing, something else now. I couldn't focus on it. Debbie was swaying against me now, in time with the music. I liked it, even though it was Debbie. I turned to face her. Her arms were still around me.
"That's nice," I said.
"...You know what, you're a LOT NICER when you're stoned," she said. "...Do you want to come to the bedroom with me?"
"What?" I asked. I could NOT be hearing this.
"Do you want to come to the bedroom with me?" she repeated. "I think you might be a lot of fun."
"You SHOULD, man," Jay said helpfully. "It's pretty good." That must have made Debbie happy.
I did think about it for a second. But I'd never been anywhere NEAR bed. I had no idea what to do, what to expect. And I was pretty sure Debbie DID.
"...Uh... I don't really think I could HANDLE that right now...," I murmured, sort of drifting away from all this.
"That's too bad," she said. "Because I think you're really nice right now...."
I was still drifting. But I knew how I felt about Debbie. I still didn't like her.
"...But you're still a slut," I murmured.
"What?" she said, as if from a thousand miles away. She turned to Jay. "Do you think he meant that?"
"Probably not," Jay said. "You said yourself he's stoned. Look at him. He doesn't even know where he's at right now."
Debbie kept her arms around my waist until Jay finished his smoke, then pulled her away for a return trip to the bedroom.
I went and sat in the living room, the radio still playing, I couldn't tell what. I thought about what she'd offered, and I knew I wasn't ready for it. I hadn't even kissed a girl yet. I had NO IDEA what would happen if I went to the bedroom with Debbie, and it scared me. Besides, what if Something Happened and Debbie got pregnant? I knew she'd never blame Jay, and I didn't want to be the fall-guy for any accidents.
I don't think the idea of following my brother yet again ever occurred to me. It was buried by the idea that a girl -- no matter how stoned -- had said I was nice and expressed an interest in going to bed with me. That was an absolute first.
But I was certain that if I was ever going to go to bed with a girl, I wanted it to be someone I was in love with, someone I cared about -- not someone I could barely stand to see
After about half an hour, Jay reappeared and we left. On the walk home, Jay asked me "Were you really that stoned?" I didn't know. But it wore off after we left Debbie's house. And Debbie never got close to me again. And I didn't mind.
It was more than two years later before any other girl got that close.