One minute I was fixing dinner, and the next? I was gone. My head in another place and my body swaying to the music on the radio…humming along and drifting… back in time to a sweltering day in August of ’72. There were just three of us, me, my best friend Effie and a young guitarist strumming the tune– “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me”–by Mac Davis. The guitarist’s name was “Horst” (but he preferred Jimmy) and he was pretty good.
We sat there, Effie and I , on cool satin, zebra striped sheets that covered the bed Jimmy’s dad slept in. Yeah, Jimmy’s dad was quite a character…divorced and wining and dining every available woman (married or single) in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Not a great looking guy, nothing “studly” about him–but he had charm and he would charm the ladies right into this very bed on which Effie and I now sat–listening to Jimmy strum away. Sounds a little yuck, no? But we didn’t care–the sheets felt cool against our hot and perspiring bare legs–even the hot pants we wore were too much for this heat. But there was another kind of heat in that room that day–and it had nothing to do with Summer swelter. Sweet Jimmy had a crush on me. He wanted me and I knew it and it made me feel powerful, but not in a good way. You see, I wanted Andy (his best friend) as much as (no! even more than) Jimmy wanted me. I wanted him so badly I could taste it–and yet–all Andy wanted was a french girl named Marie-Luce. A french girl! Could it be any worse than that? How does a girl like me (the girl next door)–compete? I can’t…couldn’t…and I knew it. My burning (seventeen year old) libido threatened at times to burst into flames when Andy was around me–but lately–Jimmy seemed to be having the same effect. I was combustible and ready to burn baby burn. Hey remember–“if you can’t be with the one you love–love the one your with”? It was the 70’s man–free love and flower power…it was all good–wasn’t it?
So Jimmy sang and I sang along–
“Girl-you’re a hot-blooded woman-child and it’s warm where you’re touchin’ me but I can tell by your tremblin’ smile, you’re seein’ way too much in me…”
Well yeah, I was. I was dreaming about Andy–while getting all hot and bothered about Jimmy and this twisted love song! This song that spoke what my body was feeling! Poor Effie–we both (Jimmy and I) nearly forgot about her–but there she was just valiantly humming along. Was she aware of what was going on between Jimmy and me? If she was, she didn’t let on…just kept humming softly while I shifted (uncomfortably) on those satin sheets and tugged at my shirt– feeling the hot flush rising up from somewhere down below –slowly burning it’s way upward over my breasts–onto my neck and then slapping me across the both cheeks! I felt my breath coming shorter and faster and –lastly both my ears lit up like two red beacons of what? Well–my out-of-control teenage hormones–that’s what! Jimmy was pretty much the same shade of pink as me–and breathing even harder as he tried to keep singing sing steady. It was when he started perspiring like mad –from the effort of trying to control himself–that Effie finally noticed–I think? As Jimmy (breathlessly) sang,
“Girl don’t let your life get tangled up in mine–’cause I’ll just use you, I can’t take no clinging vine–Baby baby don’t get hooked on me–Baby baby don’t get hooked on me–’cause i’ll just use you–theI’ll set you free…Ooooooo…Baby, Baby –don’t get hooked on meeeeeeee”–
Yeah..that last part came out like a long hoarse whisper but then he stopped and just stared at me–long and hard. “Is something wrong?”, Effie asked innocently concerned. But I knew what Jimmy was thinking–and he knew what I was thinking too. Damn that song–it was great but it almost word for word explained the tangled up mess (of love?) we all found ourselves trapped in! Me loving Andy, (Jimmy’s best friend) –Andy loving Marie-Luce (la pew!), (she was nobody’s friend–just a stranger he met one horrible day and fell in love with) –Jimmy loving me and Effie loving Jimmy. We were all “hooked” on the wrong people and too stubborn–too clueless and controlled by our useless (yet raging) emotions to do anything (even slightly smart) about it.
So? Did I sleep with Jimmy? No–but I probably would have–eventually–in spite of Effie’s feelings for him. When that fire of desire burns in a seventeen year old body–there isn’t much room for loyalty– or for wasting time thinking ’bout what’s right or what’s wrong! It’s physical–the urge so strong that the addled brain never gets consulted or given a chance to “opt out”. I said I would have…slept with him–if I’d had the chance. But–his dad happened to come home right about then–with one of his lady friends in tow. He told us all to get the “hell off of his bed and out of his god-damned apartment”. Jimmy grabbed his guitar, I grabbed Effie and we all tumbled down the five flights of stairs out into the street. Jimmy mumbled an apology and tried to hug me goodbye–but Vonnie was trying to hug him at the same time–murmuring –“No worries–we’ve got to get going anyway–we’ve all got places to be tomorrow.”.
The next day I sailed off to Germany (with my mom) on the SS Berlin–the beginning of a year long stay that was Hell and changed my life –forever! Effie moved in with her Aunt on Long Island–(from where she would commute to Art School in Manhattan in the Fall)–And (my?) Andy left for France with (his) –soon to be fiancee Marie-Luce–AND Jimmy took his guitar and left for parts unknown–never to be heard from again–by me.
It was the last Summer of freedom for us all. The last Summer to let the wind blow us like dandelion puffs in the breeze–no worries as to where life would take us next–or where it would set us down. A crazy day that seems to have gotten stuck in my brain (I think) forever? Because today–nearly five decades later–I felt that burn on my body again–Felt the cool of those black and white feral satin sheets and regretted never having slept with that sweet sweet Jimmy. Crazy in love with me–Jimmy –who strummed that guitar so well and sang that tangled up love song to me–so many (many) summers ago?
Gotta love the power of a song to transport both body and mind back in time—this body went there today–back to that sweltering day in August of 1972–and burned again with remembered desire…and it could’ve been aright –but like the song said–it was really –all so wrong.
I guess I’m sorry Effie–let me just say that much (now)? Maybe it wasn’t “love”–but it was something. Jimmy and I had a connection that we should’ve explored more deeply. Who knows–it might have changed both of our lives for the better (or maybe not?)–but we’ll never know.
Each time I hear that song …I wonder –Should I have been “hooked” on Jimmy–like he was “hooked” on me? Instead of being “hooked” on Andy–who I knew …was never “hooked” on me? And what about Effie–being “hooked” on Jimmy–when all Jimmy wanted…was me?
“Just keep it friendly…’cause I don’t want to leave–don’t start clinging to me…’cause I can’t breathe! Baby, baby don’t get hooked on me–Baby, baby don’t get hooked on me–’cause I’ll just use you and I’ll set you free…Baby, baby–don’t– get hooked–on me.”