I met Jeremiah in homeroom in eighth grade. He was a fat kid, and only friends with half of the circle of miscreants I sat with. I didn't realize this until I suggested hanging out with him after school, and my friend told me, "No, I don't like that fat kid." I sometimes called him "Buttcrack" behind his back, because his buttcrack was often visible when he sat down. On at least one occasion, I came up behind him and dropped a pencil into it. He didn't think it was funny, but I did.
Jeremiah invited me over to his house after school one time, so I rode his bus home with him. As we got closer to where he lived, I noticed that none of the houses were particularly nice, and I knew that a lot of the people who lived in that area had to be really poor. Jeremiah lived in a two-story house on the edge of a river. There was no siding on the house, and the insulation was clearly visible. I wondered if it was a temporary or permanent condition, but I didn't ask. When we got to his house, his sister, who was in the same grade as us and who had also ridden the bus home, disappeared into her room. Jeremiah's little brother was home, and wanted to hang out with us. For a while, we threw things into the river. We threw rocks at first, and then started throwing toys and half-empty aerosol cans and other assorted garbage into the water.
"Do you smoke?" Jeremiah asked.
"Sometimes," I said. I didn't, but I didn't want to sound like a square.
Jeremiah got a pack of cigarettes from inside and we walked into the woods with his brother. We each took a cigarette from the pack. I thought it was weird that Jeremiah's little brother was smoking. He was in 3rd or 4th grade.
"Don't you inhale?" Jeremiah asked.
"Yeah," I said, sucking on the cigarette and blowing the smoke out. I couldn't figure out what they were doing that I wasn't doing.
When we were finished, we went inside and Jeremiah offered me some Kool-Aid. He handed me a cup and went to the fridge to get the Kool-Aid.
"This cup is dirty," I said. The bottom was crusty and brown. Jeremiah got me another cup, but it had the same problem. I looked at more cups from the cabinet, and they were all crusty and brown in the bottom.
"It's not dirty," he said, "We drink a lot of tea."
I drank my Kool-Aid quickly, trying not to think of the bottom of the cup.
Jeremiah and I got in trouble for making fun of a kid on my bus named Jeff. I don't remember how it started, but we found ourselves in the office, being interrogated by the vice-principal. When we left the office, I suggested we drew comics about how Jeff and the vice-principal were gay lovers. We showed each other our comics at the end of the day. Mine had lots of tiny panels and was fairly graphic, despite being cartoony. Jeremiah's comic was a couple of stick-figures interacting in a couple of giant panels. I told him we should draw some more. The next time, his panels were tiny and I could tell he was doing his best to emulate my style. I thought it was cool.
In 9th grade, Jeremiah made friends with my sister, and would frequently write her notes. She told me that they were stupid, because he would make up ridiculous acronyms and expect her to know what they meant. She'd always have to ask.
"What is S.Y.A.L.A.M.T.?" she'd ask.
"You don't know? See you at lunch at my table!"
In 9th grade, I began my drift away from my obnoxious friends and began hanging out with nerdier kids. Jeremiah and I remained casual acquaintances, and he was still in my homeroom until I was reassigned in 11th grade due to my complete inability to tolerate our teacher. Jeremiah always wanted me to smell his fingers in the morning. Some guys do that to brag about getting laid. Jeremiah did it to brag about smoking cigarettes, and sometimes weed, before school.
In 10th grade, I was riding home with a group of friends, and they wanted to stop at Jeremiah's house. His mom had made up an excuse to get Jeremiah out of school early that day, because his older brother had shot a deer and they needed Jeremiah to put his name on it. His brother had already killed as many as he was legally allowed to. When we stopped at his house, we all got out of the car to look at a deer his brother had killed. It was laying in the back of his pickup truck. My friend Jason poked it in the eye with his finger until some goo came out, and then wiped his finger on me.
"He's a vegetarian," Jason told Jeremiah's brother.
"Really?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he said.
"That's what I said!" Jason said, and everybody laughed except me.
In 11th grade, Jeremiah and this other kid, Nick, were talking in homeroom about their plans to go hunting over the weekend while tripping on Jimson weed. Having done very minimal internet research on the subject, I knew this was a terrible idea.
"You can't have a good trip," I told them, "Only a bad one. You'll hallucinate and think everything you're seeing is real."
"Yeah," Jeremiah said, "It's going to be fucking awesome!"
I couldn't do anything to dissuade them, so I just worried all weekend that I would come back to school to find out that one of them had shot the other. I never heard anything more about the event, so I assumed they never went through with it. I didn't mention it, fearing that if they hadn't already done it, they might decide to give it a whirl.
Another time, Jeremiah and Nick asked if I wanted to go snipe hunting. They said all you had to do was shine a light into a bag at night, and a bird called a snipe would run into the bag. I had heard about this before, in a book of urban legends. I told them it wasn't true, but they insisted that it was.
"The best part," Jeremiah told me, "is once you get the snipe into a bag, you can bash the bag against something until it's dead."
In 12th grade, having been moved to a different homeroom, I barely talked to Jeremiah at all. He hung out with Nazi stoners who hated me. There was a rumor that a friend and I were gay lovers, which turned me into social poison. Jeremiah's little brother told my girlfriend that "your boyfriend is the gayest kid in the school." Still, Jeremiah, perhaps because he was never particularly popular, even in the shittiest of shitty social circles, was always cool with me.
One morning before class, as I sat on a bench in the hallway talking to a friend, Jeremiah stopped to say a few friendly words. He was walking with a Nazi stoner who I had never talked to, and whose last name sounded like "Sodomizer." Sodomizer's brother had called me a sand nigger, and had also professed his desire to fuck my sister. While I spoke to Jeremiah, Sodomizer glared at me.
"Fucking faggot!" he yelled, as soon as they had turned around and started walking away.
"No, he's cool," Jeremiah said.
"That's not what I heard."
Jeremiah came up to me one morning and told me he was growing weed in his basement. I was glad to hear this, because for some reason or another he owed me some. Having done minimal research on the internet, I knew a little bit on the subject. Mainly, I knew that you needed a specialized lamp if you wanted to grow indoors.
"What kind of light are you using?" I asked him.
"I'm not using one," he said.
"Um, plants need light, dude."
"Not weed !" he told me, and walked away. I asked him later how it was going and he said it never grew. I acted surprised.
I saw Jeremiah once, a few years after we had graduated. I was at our old high school, watching a football game, because my brother was involved in some school-related thing. He was a candidate for homecoming king or something. I saw Jeremiah arrive, followed closely behind by the girl who was his girlfriend as long as I can remember. He was fatter, had a shaved head, and a ridiculously long Z.Z. Top-style beard. I don't think he saw me, which was good, because I didn't want to talk to him.