The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

orror Picture Show. Mary Elizabeth was so nice that day. She said that it was the best issue we'd ever had for two reasons, and both of those reasons were mine.

First of all, it was in color, and second, it had the poem that I gave Patrick in it.

It really was a great issue. I think I'll even think so when I'm older. Craig included some of his color photographs. Sam included some "underground" news on some bands. Mary Elizabeth wrote an article about the Democratic candidates. Bob included a reprint of a pro-hemp pamphlet. And Patrick made this fake coupon advertising a free "blow job" for anyone who buys a Smiley Cookie at the Big Boy. Some restrictions apply!

There was even a nude photograph (from the back) of Patrick if you can believe it. Sam had Craig take the picture. Mary Elizabeth told everyone to keep it a secret that the photograph was Patrick, which everybody did, except Patrick.

All night, he kept yelling, "Flaunt it, baby! Flaunt it!" which is his favorite line from his favorite movie, The Producers.

Mary Elizabeth told me she thought that Patrick asked her to put the photograph in the issue so Brad could have a photograph of him without it being suspicious, but he wouldn't say for sure. Brad bought a copy without even looking at it, so maybe she was right.

When I went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show that night, Mary Elizabeth was really mad because Craig didn't show up. Nobody knew why. Not even Sam. The problem was nobody was there to play Rocky, the muscular robot (I'm not quite sure what he is). After looking around at everybody, Mary Elizabeth turned to me.

"Charlie, how many times have you seen the show?"

"Ten."

"Do you think you can play Rocky?"

"I'm not cut and hunky."

"It doesn't matter. Can you play him?"

"I guess."

"Do you guess or do you know?"

"I guess."

"Good enough."

The next thing I know, I was wearing nothing but slippers and a bathing suit, which somebody painted gold. I don't know how these things happen to me sometimes. I was very nervous, especially because in the show, Rocky has to touch Janet all over her body, and Sam was playing Janet. Patrick kept making jokes that I would get an "erection." I really hoped this wouldn't happen. Once, I got an erection in class and had to go to the blackboard. It was a terrible time. And when my mind took that experience and added a spotlight and the fact that I was only wearing a bathing suit, I panicked. I almost didn't do the show, but then Sam told me she really wanted me to play Rocky, and I guess that's all I really needed to hear.

I won't go into detail about the whole show, but I had the best time I ever had in my whole life. I'm not kidding. I got to pretend that I was singing, and I got to dance around, and I got to wear a "feather boa" in the grande finale, which I wouldn't have thought anything of because it's part of the show, but Patrick couldn't stop talking about it.

"Charlie in a feather boa! Charlie in a feather boa!" He just couldn't stop laughing.

But the best part was the scene with Janet where we had to touch each other. It wasn't the best part because I got to touch Sam and have her touch me. It's the exact opposite. I know that sounds dumb, but it's true. Just before the scene, I thought about Sam, and I thought that if I touched her in that way on stage and meant it, it would be cheap. And as much as I think I might want to someday touch her like that, I never want it to be cheap. I don't want it to be Rocky and Janet. I want it to be Sam and I. And I want her to mean it back. So, we just played.

When the show was over, we all bowed together, and there was applause everywhere. Patrick even shoved me in front of the rest of the cast to take my own personal bow. I think this is the initiation for new cast members. All I could think was how nice it was that everyone applauded for me and how glad I was that nobody in my family was there to see me play Rocky in a feather boa. Especially my dad.

I did get an erection, though, but not until later, in the parking lot of the Big Boy.

That's when Mary Elizabeth asked me to the Sadie Hawkins' dance after she said, "You looked really good in your costume."

I like girls. I really do. Because they can think you look good in a bathing suit even when you don't. The erection made me feel guilty in hindsight though, but I guess it couldn't be helped.

I told my sister about having a date for the dance, but she was really distracted. Then, I tried to ask her advice about how to treat a girl on a date since I've never had a date before, but she wouldn't answer. She wasn't being mean. She was just "staring off into space." I asked her if she was okay, and she said that she needed to be alone, so I went up and finished Naked Lunch.

After I finished, I just laid around in my bed, looking at the ceiling, and I smiled because it was a nice kind of quiet.

Love always,

Charlie


February 9, 1992

Dear friend,

I have to say something about my last letter. I know that Sam would never ask me to the dance. I know that she would bring Craig, and if not Craig, then Patrick since Brad's girlfriend, Nancy, is going with Brad. I think Mary Elizabeth is a really smart and pretty person, and I'm glad that she is my first date ever. But after I said yes, and Mary Elizabeth announced it to the group, I wanted Sam to be jealous. I know it's wrong to want something like that, but I really did.

Sam wasn't jealous, though. To tell you the truth, I don't think she could have been happier about it, which was hard.

She even told me how to treat a girl on a date, which was very interesting. She said that with a girl like Mary Elizabeth, you shouldn't tell her she looks pretty. You should tell her how nice her outfit is because her outfit is her choice whereas her face isn't. She also said that with some girls, you should do things like open car doors and buy flowers, but with Mary Elizabeth (especially since it's the Sadie Hawkins' dance), I shouldn't do that. So, I asked her what I should do, and she said that I should ask a lot of questions and not mind when Mary Elizabeth doesn't stop talking. I said that it didn't sound very democratic, but Sam said she does it all the time with boys.

Sam did say that sex things were tricky with Mary Elizabeth since she's had boyfriends before and is a lot more experienced than I am. She said that the best thing to do when you don't know what to do during anything sexual is pay attention to how that person is kissing you and kiss them back the same way. She says that is very sensitive, which I certainly want to be.

So, I said, "Can you show me?"

And she said, "Don't be smart."

We talk to each other like that every now and then. It always makes her laugh. After Sam showed me a Zippo lighter trick, I asked her more about Mary Elizabeth.

"What if I don't want to do anything sexual with her?"

"Just say you're not ready."

"Does that work?"

"Sometimes."

I wanted to ask Sam about the other side of "sometimes," but I didn't want to be too personal, and I didn't want to know deep down. I wish I could stop being in love with Sam. I really do.

Love always,

Charlie


February 15, 1992

Dear friend,

I don't feel very well because everything is messy. I did go to the dance, and I did tell Mary Elizabeth how nice her outfit was. I did ask her questions, and I let her talk the whole time. I learned a lot about "objectification," Native Americans, and the bourgeoisie.

But most of all, I learned about Mary Elizabeth.

Mary Elizabeth wants to go to Berkeley and get two degrees. One is for political science. The other is for sociology with a minor concentration in women's studies. Mary Elizabeth hates high school and wants to explore lesbian relationships. I asked her if she thought girls were pretty, and she looked at me like I was stupid and said, "That's not the point."

Mary Elizabeth's favorite movie is Reds. Her favorite book is an autobiography of a woman who was a character in Reds. I can't remember her name. Mary Elizabeth's favorite color is green. Her favorite season is spring. Her favorite ice cream flavor (she said she refuses to eat low-fat frozen yogurt on principle alone) is Cherry Garcia. Her favorite food is pizza (half mushrooms, half green peppers). Mary Elizabeth is a vegetarian, and she hates her parents. She is also fluent in Spanish.

The only thing she asked me the whole time was whether or not I wanted to kiss her good night. When I said that I wasn't ready, she said she understood and told me what a great time she had. She said I was the most sensitive boy she'd ever met, which I didn't understand because really all I did was not interrupt her.

Then, she asked me if I wanted to go out again sometime, which Sam and I hadn't discussed, so I wasn't prepared to answer it. I said yes because I didn't want to do anything wrong, but I don't think I can think of a whole other night's worth of questions. I don't know what to do. How many dates can you go on and still not be ready to kiss? I don't think I will ever be ready for Mary Elizabeth. I'll have to ask Sam about this.

Incidentally, Sam took Patrick to the dance after Craig said he was too busy. I guess they had a big fight about it. Finally, Craig said that he didn't want to go to some stupid high school dance since he had already graduated. At one point in the dance, Patrick went to the parking lot to get stoned with his guidance counselor, and Mary Elizabeth was requesting that the deejay play some girl bands, which left Sam and me alone.

"Are you having a good time?"

Sam didn't answer right away. She just kind of looked sad.

"Not really. Are you?"

"I don't know. This is my first date, so I don't know what to compare it to."

"Don't worry. You'll do fine."

"Really?"

"You want some punch?"

"Sure."

With that, Sam left. She really did look sad, and I wished I could have made her feel better, but sometimes, I guess you just can't. So, I stood alone by the wall and watched the dance for a while. I would describe it to you, but I think it's the kind of thing where you have to be there or at least know the people. But then again, maybe you knew the same people when you went to your high school dances, if you know what I mean.

The one different thing about this particular dance was my sister. She was with her boyfriend. And during a slow song, it looked like they had a huge fight because he stopped looking at her, and she rushed off the dance floor to where the bathrooms are. I tried to follow her, but she had too much of a head start. She never came back to the dance, and her boyfriend eventually left.

After Mary Elizabeth dropped me off, I went into the house and found my sister crying in the basement. This was a different kind of crying. It kind of frightened me. I talked very quiet and slow.

"Are you okay?"

"Leave me alone, Charlie."

"No, really. What's wrong?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"I could try."

"That's a laugh. That's really a laugh."

"Do you want me to wake up Mom and Dad then?"

"No."

"Well, maybe they could--"

"CHARLIE! SHUT UP! OKAY?! JUST SHUT UP!"

That's when she really started crying. I didn't want to make her feel worse, so I turned to leave her alone. That's when my sister started hugging me. She didn't say anything. She just hugged me tight and wouldn't let go. So, I hugged her back. It was weird, too, because I've never hugged my sister. Not when she wasn't forced to anyway. After a while, she calmed down a bit and let go. She took a deep breath and brushed off the hair that was sticking to her face.

That's when she told me she was pregnant.

I would tell you about the rest of the night, but I honestly don't remember much about it. It's all a very sad daze. I do know that her boyfriend said it wasn't his baby, but my sister knew that it was. And I do know that he broke up with her right there at the dance. My sister hasn't told anybody else about it because she doesn't want it to get around. The only people who know are me, her, and him. I'm not allowed to tell anyone we know. Not anyone. Not ever.

I told my sister that after a while, she probably couldn't hide it, but she said she wouldn't let it go that far. Since she was eighteen, she didn't need Mom or Dad's permission. All she needed was someone to be with her next Saturday at the clinic. And that person was me.

"It's lucky I got my license now."

I said that to make her laugh. But she didn't.

Love always,

Charlie


February 23, 1992

Dear friend,

I was sitting in the waiting room of the clinic. I had been there for an hour or so. I don't remember exactly how long. Bill had given me a new book to read, but I just couldn't concentrate on it. I guess it makes sense why not.

Then, I tried to read some magazines, but again, I just couldn't. It wasn't so much that they mentioned what the people were eating. It was all the magazine covers. Each one had a smiling face, and every time it was a woman on the cover, she was showing her cleavage. I wondered if those women wanted to do that to look pretty or if it was just part of the job. I wondered if they had a choice or not if they wanted to be successful. I just couldn't get that thought out of my mind.

I could almost see the photo shoot and the actress or model going to eat a "light lunch" with her boyfriend afterward. I could see him asking her about her day, and how she wouldn't think too much of it, or maybe if it was her first magazine cover, how she would be very excited because she was starting to become famous. I could see the magazine on the newsstands, and a lot of anonymous eyes looking at it, and how some people would think it was very important. And then how a girl like Mary Elizabeth would be very angry about the actress or model showing her cleavage along with all the other actresses and models doing the same thing, while some photographer like Craig would just look at the quality of the photograph. Then, I thought there would be some men who would buy the magazine and masturbate to it. And I wondered what the actress or her boyfriend thought about that, if they did at all. And then I thought that it was about time for me to stop thinking because it wasn't doing my sister any good.

That's when I started thinking about my sister.

I thought about the time when she and her friends painted my fingernails, and how that was okay because my brother wasn't there. And the time she let me use her dolls to make up plays or let me watch whatever I wanted to watch on TV. And when she started becoming a "young lady," and no one was allowed to look at her because she thought she was fat. And how she really wasn't fat. And how she was actually very pretty. And how different her face looked when she realized boys thought she was pretty. And how different her face looked the first time she really liked a boy who was not on a poster on her wall. And how her face looked when she realized she was in love with that boy. And then I wondered how her face would look when she came out from behind those doors.

My sister was the one who told me where babies come from. My sister was also the one who laughed when I immediately asked her where babies go to.

When I thought that, I started to cry. But I couldn't let anyone see me because if they did, they might not let me drive her home, and they might call our parents. And I couldn't let that happen because my sister was counting on me, and this was the first time anyone ever counted on me for anything. When I realized that this was the first time I cried since I made my aunt Helen the promise not to cry unless it was for something important, I had to go outside because I couldn't hide it from anyone anymore.

I must have been in the car for a long time because eventually my sister found me there. I was chain-smoking cigarettes and crying still. My sister knocked on the window. I rolled it down. She looked at me with this curious expression. Then, her curiosity turned to anger.

"Charlie, are you smoking?!"

She was so mad. I can't tell you how mad she was.

"I can't believe you're smoking!"

That's when I stopped crying. And started laughing. Because of all the things she could have said right after she got out of there, she picked my smoking. And she got angry about it. And I knew if my sister was angry, then her face wouldn't be that different. And she would be okay.

"I'm going to tell Mom and Dad, you know?"

"No, you're not." God, I couldn't stop laughing.

When my sister thought about it for a second, I think she figured out why she wouldn't tell Mom or Dad. It's like she suddenly remembered where we were and what had just happened and how crazy our whole conversation was considering all that. Then, she started laughing.

But the laughing made her feel sick, so I had to get out of the car and help her into the backseat. I had already set up the pillow and blanket for her because we figured it was probably best for her to sleep it off a little in the car before we went home.

Just before she fell asleep, she said, "Well, if you're going to smoke, crack the window at least."

Which made me start laughing again.

"Charlie, smoking. I can't believe it."

Which made me laugh harder, and I said, "I love you."

And my sister said, "I love you, too. Just stop it with the laughing already."

Eventually, my laughing turned into the occasional chuckle, and then it just stopped. I looked back and saw that my sister was asleep. So, I started the car and turned on the heater, so she would be warm. That's when I started reading the book Bill gave me. It's Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which is my brother's girlfriend's favorite book, so I was very excited to read it.

When the sun went down, I put my smoking pamphlet on the page where I stopped reading and started driving home. I stopped a few blocks from our house to wake up my sister and put the blanket and pillow in the trunk. We pulled into the driveway. We got out. We went inside. And we heard our mother and father's voices from the top of the stairs.

"Where have you two been all day?"

"Yeah. Dinner's almost ready."

My sister looked at me. I looked at her. She shrugged. So, I started talking a mile a minute about how we saw a movie and how my sister taught me how to drive on the highways and how we went to McDonald's.

"McDonald's?! When?!"

"Your mother cooked ribs, you know?" My father was reading the paper.

As I talked, my sister went up to my father and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He didn't look up from his paper.

"I know, but we didn't go to McDonald's until before the movie, and that was a wh
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