"The thing is, they are partly right. Actually, they are mostly right. I do hang out with druggies, losers, and immature high school kids."
Jeremy's grades plummeted to a 2.1 average. He did not receive an ROTC scholarship. He postponed telling his parents, he wrote Agnes, because he didn't "want to hear any of their s---."
More and more, he hung out with David Cash, a senior who planned on becoming a nuclear engineer. Almost all of Jeremy's friends thought David was an arrogant nerd, but for Jeremy he was an ideal companion: David looked up to him. David laughed at his jokes, didn't judge him or poke fun at his crush on Agnes--and he had access to his mother's 1988 red convertible.
In February, Crutch took Jeremy aside. He suspected that Jeremy was using drugs but only mentioned his erratic attendance. Jeremy scarcely made eye contact. "I'm sorry, coach, " he said. "I know I let the team down."
By March, Agnes had returned from the East Coast. One afternoon, Jeremy's mother walked in on the two having sex. She ordered the young woman to leave. Winnie believed that they wanted to be discovered. Jeremy knew what time she came home.
"There is to be no more Agnes in this house," Winnie told Jeremy.
"If I can't have Agnes in my life, I can't live here," he responded.
"That's a choice you'll have to make."
Jeremy stormed off to his friend Justin's house, asking Earlynn if he could stay with them for a while, explaining that he had gotten caught having sex.
Graduate from high school, get a job, get an apartment, get a life, Earlynn responded. The rules have always been the same, Jeremy. The only thing that's changed is you're 18, and you don't think they apply anymore.
If I'm old enough to vote, he asked, why can't I choose my own sexual partners?
'Everything We Did Pertained to Excitement,' Phillips Says
Jeremy moved into the studio apartment of Jeremy Phillips, a friend who had graduated from Wilson the previous year. Phillips had met Jeremy at a party at Jeremy's house when his parents were away. That night, Phillips drank tequila, passed out and woke up with a vague memory of urinating on Jeremy's father's file cabinet. Jeremy cleaned it up. He wasn't angry. Cool dude, Phillips thought.
"Everything we did pertained to excitement, what kind of thrill could we get," says Phillips.
Jeremy, David and Phillips hung out a lot. They'd cruise Long Beach. Sometimes they'd harass prostitutes and transients, people who wouldn't call police, "lower forms of life," says Phillips.
Once, the three friends drove along Pacific Coast Highway, and Jeremy smashed an egg in a prostitute's face.
On another evening, Phillips brought his BB gun, and as they drove, he fired on a homeless man who had been hassling him. Jeremy was surprised, then he wanted a turn. "It was automatic that you let your friend try," Phillips says.
They aimed for the buttocks, never the head or eyes. "We wouldn't shoot women," says Phillips. "I had my limits anyway."
On about five evenings, Jeremy returned to Phillips' apartment and bragged that he had lured a prostitute to the car and grabbed her arm as the driver sped off. The prostitute was bumped and towed along the street until Jeremy let go. He called it "whore dragging."
When Crutch learned that Jeremy had moved out of his parents' house, he was shocked. He pulled Jeremy aside and accused him of doing drugs. If you want to stay on the team, live with your parents, he said. Jeremy denied any drug use, but he agreed to return home. Phillips was leaving town anyway, unable to keep up with the rent.
Jeremy's parents set several conditions: He would attend school and abide by curfew, and no friends could hang out at the house unless Winnie or John was there.
Crutch saw little improvement. In April, three weeks before the volleyball season ended, Jeremy quit the team.
Agnes was dodging his calls. She had washed out of the Army and was now home. She asked him to return her letters. When he finally reached her, the conversation made his heart sink: She didn't want to see him anymore.
Jeremy wouldn't give up. He pleaded. He offered to remake himself. "If you don't love me, will you give me the chance to earn your love?" he wrote. "My heart is in your hands to do with as you please."
He would stay up all night and clean his room or read or fiddle on the computer or write to Agnes. "It seems like I was awake all of spring break," he wrote her. By the end of vacation, he had popped so much tweak that he said he felt high even when he hadn't taken any.
He tried to see Agnes, but she avoided him. He'd wait for calls from her that never came. One day he went to Agnes' house, and her mother told him she was visiting her grandmother. Not believing her, he asked if he could see Agnes' room. She was not there.