The first time I went over to Debbie’s house, it was obvious why she ate. Her mom and dad were both really big and her house was really small. It was rented, not owned, and on a street that was one lane away from having “interstate” in front of it. The sound of cars whizzing by at German engineering speeds competed with the deafening cry of airplanes landing and taking off at the airport that was mere blocks away.
She wasn’t even zoned for Agnes Risley, but her parents let her switch because she was having huge problems with the bullies in the school for which she was originally zoned. I changed my mind about her parents right away. They cared about Debbie; they were just so poor that they had to move wherever job opportunities presented themselves.
Her dad was a janitor at the school she left. I guess the only thing worse than being a mid-school-year transplant and six-feet-tall was having your dad be the custodian. My empathy grew for Debbie almost as quickly as my pant sizes were about to.
Her parents made me dinner every time I came over. I had liver and onions for the first time there. I actually didn’t know it was liver because I always thought it would be all jello-y wiggly like in the store. I didn’t realize that when it’s cooked it, well, cooks. It was alright, just not good enough to freak out over so much that I’d go so far as do something dramatic like actually eat it again. And I had a layer of grease stuck on the roof of my mouth for about a week.
My first sleep over was on a Friday night that, luckily for me, was allowance night for Debbie. Her dad handed her a crisp five-dollar bill and we were off and running.
“I’m going to show you what I do on Friday night,” Debbie said, mischief beaming out of her dark brown eyes.
I followed her out the front door and onto the practically-a-freeway street. My belly welled up with butterflies. Where was this strange Michegonian taking me? Would guns be involved? Should I have worn two pairs of underwear?
“Where are we goooooooooooiiiiiing?” was muffled by the cars whizzing by coupled with the foot-shorter-I-was-than Debbie. Instead of grabbing a bullhorn and attempting a repeat performance, I hurried my little legs up because that girl hoofed it good. Especially when she was on a mission.
The alarming chirp-chirp accompanied by the heavy glass doors heaving open, Debbie introduced me to my soon-to-be-favorite-place in the world, the Sev. At least that’s what we tweens-trying-way-too-hard-to-be-cool called it long before the word tween was even a glimmer in the American vernacular’s eye.
My love of the Sev was so serious that every single dream I had for an entire year featured a 7-11. Besides simply being a sweet-ass convenience store, the Sev contained a world of consumeristic possibilities from cigarettes to tampons to No-Doz to Slurpees.
She sprinted to the candy aisle and practically lay down on the shiny fluorescent-lit floor.
“Pick out five dollars worth of anything on this bottom shelf. I like everything so I’ll let you pick.”
Everything I learned in math class came into play. On the bottom shelf were all of the penny candies, which really cost anywhere from a nickel to a dime, but nickel candy sounds about as lame as a dime bag, and are all about as extinct as beepers. Jolly Ranchers were three for five cents. Tootsie Rolls were five cents apiece. Ring pops, Laffy Taffy, Sweet Tarts, Jawbreakers, and these weird skeleton candies in an actual little coffin were all a dime apiece. Anything with banana was out because I hated banana-flavored things. Banana is about as subtle as rape. It takes over any other fantastic taste with its “hi-I’m-banana-I-suck-because-I-taste-like-ass” taste.
Little beads of sweat formed on my brow. I could tell this could be a pivotal moment in our friendship and I didn’t want to lose a friend. I did the math and tossed candies onto Debbie’s stretched out sweatshirt which she, once full, folded in half to transform into a remarkably crafty go-go-gadget candy pouch. When finished, she strongly resembled a crack kangaroo. She hopped up to the counter and dumped our booty out. We waited in frothing anticipation for the clerk to count out every-single-candy that, of course, equaled exactly five dollars. Yay, awesome math student extraordinaire!
This was the Friday night ritual:
- Race back home, giddy with anticipation. No candy eaten in transit, even though we both really wanted to.
- Arrive and dump out all the candy onto coffee table.
- Put ultra gory horror movie in VCR (yup, they too had a VCR – how was it that only my poor friends had VCR’s?)
- Devour all the candy during the movie. One at a time.
- Go into full sugar coma.
- Rinse. Repeat.
The next morning ill from a gnarly sugar hangover, I devised a way to double our sugar intake for next week. Mom picked me up that afternoon.
“Mom, Debbie gets an allowance of five dollars a week,” I said, batting my eyelashes.
And with that, we doubled our prize money.
The next Friday double sugar coma was so intense I was unsure we would ever recover. Our stomach’s ached. Our head’s ached. We felt death approaching.
We couldn’t wait until next Friday so we could do it again.
Not for a moment did either of us ever consider doing anything different with our 10 dollars. We could’ve gone to the movies, which I’d only been to about two at this time. We could’ve gone to Park Lane Mall and bought fifty pairs of earrings at Claire’s. Each. Or we could’ve bought twenty-five pairs and gone to Sparro for pizza and Cokes.
But no, we were addicts. We saw only candy.