Adventures in Cooking: Part 4

If there is one person who’s position in the kitchen, I never fully understood it is Jeremy. The always fun, unreliable, will steal your CDs when you are not looking, sell you weed, steal your weed, borrow money, steal your money, crackhead you could not help but to love. There wasn’t a place in Olga’s where Jeremy fit. At times he would cook in the kitchen but usually he was found in the dish room. You would not see Jeremy for weeks and then he’s running around like he is at home and collecting a paycheck before he disappeared again. He could do any job but was like the man with no name in those old western movies, he comes into town, fucks shit up and leaves riding off into the sunset, until he comes back after people had forgotten the problems he caused last time. People liked Jeremy and that included me as well.
Jeremy wasn’t the youngest member of the crew. That was a stunning blonde who worked as a greeter taking people to their tables and broke the hearts of many men when they found out she was only 14. I don’t know what is in the water in Portage MI but she looked like she was a grad student in college. It’s moments like that when I read stories about teachers in trouble for having relationships with students when I want to see a picture of the girl and say “she looks older than him.”
For a seventeen-year-old, Jeremy was able to do things I couldn’t pull off at 21. During the Christmas rush each of us was assigned a “special” drink to help get us through the shift. I brought rum, good old Captain Morgan, thinking it would go well with the Pepsi we served. Nate Dawg, being the cheap ass that he was, didn’t bring anything even though it was his idea. Junior brought Gin that nobody else wanted. Jeremy showed everyone up by bringing a large bottle of Parrot’s Bay coconut flavored rum. Paper cups were everywhere in the kitchen, labeled with names and disappearing quickly. Stress levels subsided and work was more like hanging out at the club than the usual shit show it would turn into. When the manager walked through and saw the smiles on people’s faces and the heard the laughter, she couldn’t figure out why everyone was so happy on the busiest day of the year. The line was going out the door. Dishes were piling up. Tickets were stacked on top of each other at the grill. Servers were short staffed with extra tables assigned to each of them. The dish bitch couldn’t keep up. And yet we were loving it. Jeremy, in his own shady way had saved the day, and for that we loved him.
Jeremy disappeared again after that as he always did. He would reappear in my life as the long-time friend of my future brother-in-law. The family knew him well and treated him like family knowing that he didn’t come from the best home.
That short time I worked with him was educational for me. I was not familiar with the life style of a crackhead. I was naïve enough to trust people and learned the hard way the truth of certain situations. One night a group of us hung out at my place, a cheap $400 a month apartment in a complex called Maple Ridge. It wasn’t a bad place at the time but when it went down hill it took a nose dive into a pile of shit loaded with napalm and cockroaches. The last month I lived there a man was found dead in his apartment, shot several weeks before, and management didn’t discover his body until he didn’t pay his rent. Somehow nobody heard the gunshots.
There was Nate Dawg, Rob, Jeremy and his friend Jason, Rob’s married girlfriend, and me sitting in the living room taking shots of cinnamon flavored liquor. The whole thing turned into a shit show when we went down the dark path of talking about our childhoods. Rob had grown up on an Indian reservation where he impregnated his girlfriend at the age of thirteen and she later killed herself. He discovered the body and ended up in an institution after that. Nate Dawg remembered the day that his father shot his mother and the only thing that saved her life was the bullet being reflected by a can of soda. Rob’s girlfriend had her first child at thirteen and married her boyfriend who she was kind of sort of separated from, almost, but not really. Jeremy sat back not saying a thing and Jason was the silent side kick that just liked to get high.
That night everyone passed out in various places around the apartment. Rob’s girlfriend threw up in the toilet and fell asleep on the floor. Rob slept in the tub next to her. Nate went home, living across the street in the trailer park. Jeremy and Jason slept in the living room and disappeared by morning. I don’t know how they got home or if they even went home. Neither one owned a car and didn’t ask for a ride. They were simply gone.
A few days later I went to do a workout and opened my CD cases to find them empty. Maybe I left them in another room? Maybe they were in the car? Maybe they were… oh hell those crackheads, after everything we went through. All the days at work, the parties, giving them rides, loaning them money that would never be repaid, covering for them on toke breaks, and this was how you repay me. That was the last party I would have at my place. My Matrix soundtrack was never seen again along with the Hackers soundtrack, MDFMK, and a few other CDs that I actually paid money for. You have to remember this was a time when Napster was around and we were burning CDs like they were going to disappear forever. Years later, Jeremy would admit they stole them, said he was “sorry” and that was it. There was no remorse, no attempt to make it up to people he had wronged. The world of a crackhead is a selfish one and when I see a man scratching his arms as he walks up to ask me for money, I have no qualms about telling him to “fuck off” and before he can retort I say “if you can ask me for money you could ask someone else if they want fries with that.”
The last time I saw Jeremy he approached my car after I went to the ATM, with his hood up, not saying a word until the last minute. I had my knife in my hand when he said “hey” and I replied “Jeremy?” He was thin, unrecognizable except for the voice. He saw me and wanted to say “hi.” He was sort of living, but not really, in the apartment complex behind the credit union and of course he was using the spot to sell weed among other things. We parted ways with myself feeling freaked out and thinking he was going to be found in a gutter somewhere.
The last conversation my brother-in-law had with him was around that time. Jeremy popped in at the house, unexpected as usual, and acted like he always lived there. He was bragging about selling drugs full time and how some guys were so desperate that it made him feel good about himself. “I have never been so desperate. Like who needs weed that bad?”
“What are you talking about?” Jimmy asked trying to make sense of the story.
“This guy comes up to me and wants to buy weed but he doesn’t have any money. So, I tell him to fuck off but he won’t go away like I’m going to give him some for free or something. So, he says he’ll suck my dick if I give him some and I think, it’s been a while and I’m not sucking his dick so it’s not gay. I’m just getting some head and I already have some girls that do that, so why not?”
“You got a blowjob from a dude. You are so fucking gay.”
“I’m not gay. He sucked my dick.” Jeremy was bragging about getting a blowjob to the wrong guy.
“Get the fuck out of my house. We are done.”
Jeremy left and as far as I know they never spoke to each other again after that.
Years later, my ex-wife ran into Jeremy. He was still alive and was finally arrested. With no prior record the judge made a deal with him and he joined the Army. There was no surprise that he would be shipped to Iraq. He stated that the army was the best thing that happened to him and that it changed his life around. I don’t know how many tours he did or how long he was in, but I heard he was living somewhere down south and is married with kids.
I don’t know if this is one of those stories of redemption or not, I still haven’t seen my CDs, but I guess it goes to show that some people, if given enough time, or pushed into the military, can change for the better.
To be continued…

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