The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

ile ago."

Then, my father said matter-of-factly, "What movie did you see?"

I froze, but my sister came through with the name of a movie just before she kissed my mother on the cheek. I had never heard of this movie.

"Was it any good?"

I froze again.

My sister was so calm. "It was okay. Those ribs smell great."

"Yeah," I said. Then, I thought of something to change the subject. "Hey, Dad. Is the hockey game on tonight?"

"Yeah, but you're only allowed to watch it with me if you don't ask any of your stupid questions."

"Okay, but can I ask one now before it starts?"

"I don't know. Can you?"

"May I?" I asked, corrected.

He grunted, "Go ahead."

"What do the players call a hockey puck again?"

"A biscuit. They call it a biscuit."

"Great. Thanks."

From that moment and all through dinner, my parents didn't ask any more questions about our day, although my mom did say how glad she was that my sister and I were spending more time together.

That night, after our parents went to sleep, I went down to the car and got the pillow and blanket out of the trunk. I brought them to my sister in her room. She was pretty tired. And she spoke very softly. She thanked me for the whole day. She said that I didn't let her down. And she said that she wanted it to be our little secret since she decided to tell her old boyfriend that the pregnancy was a false alarm. I guess she just didn't trust him with the truth anymore.

Just after I turned out the lights and opened the door, I heard her say softly,

"I want you to stop smoking, you hear?"

"I hear."

"Because I really do love you, Charlie."

"I love you, too."

"I mean it."

"So do I."

"Okay, then. Good night."

"Good night."

That's when I shut the door and left her to sleep.

I didn't feel like reading that night, so I went downstairs and watched a half-hour-long commercial that advertised an exercise machine. They kept flashing a 1-800 number, so I called it. The woman who picked up the other end of the phone was named Michelle. And I told Michelle that I was a kid and did not need an exercise machine, but I hoped she was having a good night.

That's when Michelle hung up on me. And I didn't mind a bit.

Love always,


March 7, 1992

Dear friend,

Girls are weird, and I don't mean that offensively. I just can't put it any other way.

I have now gone on another date with Mary Elizabeth. In a lot of ways, it was similar to the dance except that we got to wear more comfortable clothes. She was the one who asked me out again, and I suppose that's okay, but I think I'm going to start doing the asking from time to time because I can't always hope to get asked. Also, if I do the asking, then I'll be sure to go out with the girl of my choice if she says yes. It's just so complicated.

The good news is that I got to be the one who drove this time. I asked my father if I could borrow his car. It happened at the dinner table.

"What for?" My dad gets protective of his car.

"Charlie's got a girlfriend," my sister said.

"She's not my girlfriend," I said.

"Who is this girl?" my father asked.

"What's going on?" my mother asked from the kitchen.

"Charlie wants to borrow the car," my dad replied.

"What for?" my mother asked.

"That's what I'm trying to find out!" my father said with a raised voice.

"No need to get snippy," my mother said.

"Sorry," my father said without meaning it. Then, he turned back to me.

"So, tell me about this girl."

So, I told him a little about Mary Elizabeth, leaving out the part about the tattoo and belly button ring. He kind of smiled for a little while, trying to see if I was already guilty of something. Then, he said yes. I could borrow his car. When my mother came in with coffee, my father told her the whole story while I ate dessert.

That night, as I was finishing my book, my father came in and sat on the edge of my bed. He lit a cigarette and started telling me about sex. He gave me this talk a few years before, but it was more biological then. Now, he was saying things like...

"I know I'm your old man, but..."

"you can't be too careful these days," and

"wear protection," and

"if she says no, then you have to assume she means it..."

"because if you force her to do something she doesn't want to do, then you're in big trouble, mister ..."

"and even if she says no, and really means yes, then quite frankly she's playing games and isn't worth the price of dinner."

"if you need to talk to somebody, you can come to me, but if you don't want to do that for some reason, talk to your brother," and finally

"I'm glad we had this talk."

Then, my father ruffled my hair, smiled, and left the room. I guess I should tell you that my father isn't like on television. Things like sex don't embarrass him. And he is actually very smart about them.

I think he was especially happy because I used to kiss this boy in the neighborhood a lot when I was very little, and even though the psychiatrist said it was very natural for little boys and girls to explore things like that, I think my father was afraid anyway. I guess that's natural, but I'm not sure why.

Anyway, Mary Elizabeth and I went to see a movie downtown. It was what they call an "art" movie. Mary Elizabeth said it won an award at some big film festival in Europe, and she thought that was impressive. As we waited for the movie to start, she said what a shame it was that so many people would go to see a stupid Hollywood movie, but there were only a few people in this theater. Then, she talked about how she couldn't wait to get out of here and go to college where people appreciate things like that.

Then the movie started. It was in a foreign language and had subtitles, which was fun because I had never read a movie before. The movie itself was very interesting, but I didn't think it was very good because I didn't really feel different when it was over.

But Mary Elizabeth felt different. She kept saying it was an "articulate" film. So "articulate." And I guess it was. The thing is, I didn't know what it said even if it said it very well.

Later, I drove us to this underground record store, and Mary Elizabeth gave me a tour. She loves this record store. She said it was the one place where she felt like herself. She said that before coffee shops were popular, there was nowhere for kids like her to go, except the Big Boy, and that was old until this year.

She showed me the movie section and told me about all these cult filmmakers and people from France. Then, she took me down to the import section and told me about "real" alternative music. Then, she took me to the folk section and told me about girl bands like the Slits.

She said she felt really bad she hadn't gotten me anything for Christmas, and she wanted to make it up to me. Then, she bought me a record by Billie Holiday and asked if I wanted to go to her house and listen to it.

So, I was sitting alone in her basement while she was upstairs getting us something to drink. And I looked around the room, which was very clean and smelled like people didn't live there. It had a fireplace with a mantel and golf trophies. And there was a television and a nice stereo. And then Mary Elizabeth came downstairs with two glasses and a bottle of brandy. She said that she hated everything her parents loved, except for brandy.

She asked me to pour the drinks while she made a fire. She was very excited, too, which was strange because she's never like that. She kept talking about how much she loves fires and how she wanted to marry a man and live in Vermont someday, which was strange, too, because Mary Elizabeth never talks about things like that. When she finished the fire, she put on the record, and kind of danced over to me. She said she felt very warm, but not in the temperature sense.

The music started, and she clinked my glass, said "cheers," and took a sip of brandy. Brandy is very good, by the way, but it was better at the Secret Santa party. We finished the first glasses very quickly.

My heart was beating really fast, and I was starting to get nervous. She handed me another glass of brandy and touched my hand very softly when she did it. Then, she slipped her leg over mine, and I watched it just dangle there. Then, I felt her hand on the back of my neck. Just kind of moving slowly. And my heart started beating crazy.

"Do you like the record?" she asked real quiet.

"Very much." I really did, too. It was beautiful.



"Do you like me?"


"You know what I mean?"


"Are you nervous?"


"Don't be nervous."


That's when I felt her other hand. It started at my knee and worked its way up the side of my leg to my hip and stomach. Then, she took her leg off mine and kind of sat on my lap facing me. She looked right into my eyes, and she never blinked. Not once. Her face looked warm and different. And she leaned down and started kissing my neck and ears. Then my cheeks. Then my lips. And everything kind of melted away. She took my hand and slid it up her sweater, and I couldn't believe what was happening to me. Or what breasts felt like. Or later, what they looked like. Or how difficult bras are.

After we had done everything you can do from the stomach up, I lay down on the floor, and Mary Elizabeth put her head on my chest. We both breathed very slowly and listened to the music and the fire crack. When the last song was over, I felt her breath on my chest.



"Do you think I'm pretty?"

"I think you're very pretty."



Then, she held on to me a little tighter, and for the next half hour, Mary Elizabeth didn't talk at all. All I could do was lie there and think about how much her voice changed when she asked me if she was pretty, and how much she changed when I answered, and how Sam said she didn't like things like that, and how much my arm was beginning to hurt.

Thank God we heard the automatic garage door opener when we did.

Love always,


March 28, 1992

Dear friend,

It's finally starting to get a little warm here, and the people are being nicer in the hallways. Not to me necessarily, just in a general way. I wrote a paper about Walden for Bill, but this time I did it differently. I didn't write a book report. I wrote a report pretending that I was by myself near a lake for two years. I pretended that I lived off the land and had insights. To tell you the truth, I kind of like the idea of doing that right now.

Ever since that night with Mary Elizabeth, everything has been different. It started out that Monday in school where Sam and Patrick looked at me with big grins. Mary Elizabeth had told them about the night we spent together, which I really didn't want her to do, but Sam and Patrick thought it was great, and they were really happy for both of us. Sam kept saying,

"I can't believe I didn't think of it before. You guys are great together."

I think Mary Elizabeth thinks so, too, because she's been acting completely different. She's nice all the time, but it doesn't feel right. I don't know how to describe it. It's like we'll be having a cigarette outside with Sam and Patrick at the end of the day, and we'll all be talking about something until it's time to go home. Then, when I get home, Mary Elizabeth will call me right away and ask me, "What's up?" And I don't know what to say because the only thing new in my life is my walk home, which isn't a lot. But I describe the walk anyway. And then she starts talking, and she doesn't stop for a long time. She's been doing this all week. That and picking lint off my clothes.

At one point two days ago, she was talking about books, and she included a lot of books I had read. And when I told her that I had read them, she asked me very long questions that were really just her ideas with a question mark put at the end. The only thing I could say was either "yes" or "no." There was honestly no room to say anything else. After that, she started talking about her plans for college, which I had heard before, so I put down the phone, went to the bathroom, and when I came back, she was still talking. I know that was the wrong thing to do, but I thought if I didn't take a break, I would do something even worse. Like yell or hang up the phone.

She also keeps talking about the Billie Holiday record she bought for me. And she says she wants to expose me to all these great things. And to tell you the truth, I don't really want to be exposed to all these great things if it means that I'll have to hear Mary Elizabeth talk about all the great things she exposed me to all the time. It almost feels like of the three things involved: Mary Elizabeth, me, and the great things, only the first one matters to Mary Elizabeth. I don't understand that. I would give someone a record so they could love the record, not so they would always know that I gave it to them.

Then, there was the dinner. Since the holidays were over, my mom asked if I would like to have Sam and Patrick over for dinner like she promised after I told her they said she had great taste in clothing. I was so excited! I told Patrick and Sam, and we made plans for a Sunday night, and about two hours later, Mary Elizabeth walked up to me in the hall, and said,

"What time Sunday?"

I didn't know what to do. It was just for Sam and Patrick. That was the whole idea from the beginning. And I never even invited Mary Elizabeth. I guess I know why she assumed that she would be invited, but she never even waited to see. Or even drop a hint. Or anything.

So, at the dinner, the dinner where I wanted my mom and dad to see how nice and great Sam and Patrick were, Mary Elizabeth talked the whole time. It wasn't all her fault. My dad and mom asked her more questions than they asked Sam or Patrick. I guess because I am going on dates with Mary Elizabeth, and that is more curious to them than my friends are. I guess that makes sense. But still. It's like they never got to meet Sam and Patrick. And that was the whole point. By the time dinner was over, and they all left, all my mom said was that Mary Elizabeth was smart, and all my dad said was my "girlfriend" was pretty. They didn't say anything about Sam or Patrick. And all I wanted from the whole night was for them to know my friends. That was very important to me.

Sex things are weird, too. It's like after that first night, we have this pattern where we basically do what we did that first time, but there is no fire or Billie Holiday record because we are in a car, and everything is rushed. Maybe this is the way things are supposed to be, but it doesn't feel right.

My sister has been reading all these books about women ever since she told her ex-boyfriend that the pregnancy was a false alarm, and he wanted to get back together, and she said no.

So, I asked her about Mary Elizabeth (leaving out the sex part) because I knew she could be neutral about it, especially since she "stayed clear" of the dinner. My sister said Mary Elizabeth is suffering from low self-esteem, but I told her that she said the same thing about Sam back in November when she started dating Craig, and Sam is completely different. Everything can't be low self-esteem, can it?

My sister tried to clarify things. She said that by introducing me to all these great things, Mary Elizabeth gained a "superior position" that she wouldn't need if she was confident about herself. She also said that people who try to control situations all the time are afraid that if they don't, nothing will work out the way they want.

I don't know if this is right or not, but it made me sad regardless. Not for Mary Elizabeth. Or for me. Just in general. Because I started to think that I didn't know who Mary Elizabeth was at all. I'm not saying she was lying to me, but she just acted so different before I got to know her, and if she really isn't like what she was at the beginning, I wish she could have just said so. But maybe she is like she was at the beginning, and I just didn't realize it. I just don't want to be another thing Mary Elizabeth is in charge of.

I asked my sister what I should do, and she said the best thing to do is be honest about my feelings. My psychiatrist said the same thing. And then I felt really sad because I thought maybe I was different from how Mary Elizabeth originally saw me, too. And maybe I was lying by not telling her that it was hard to listen to her all the time without getting to say anything back. But I was just trying to be nice like Sam said I should. I don't know where I went wrong.

I tried to call my brother about this, but his roommate said he was really busy with school, so I decided not to leave a message because I didn't want to distract him. The one thing I did was mail my report about Walden to him, so he could share it with his girlfriend. Then, maybe if they had time, they could read it, and we could talk about it, and I would have the chance to ask them both what to do about Mary Elizabeth since they were going out in a good way and would know how to make things work. Even if we didn't get to talk about it, I would still love to meet my brother's girlfriend. Even on the phone. I did get to see her once on a VCR tape of one of my brother's football games, but it's really not the same thing. Even though she was very beautiful. But not in an unconventional way. I don't know why I'm saying all this. I just wish Mary Elizabeth would ask me questions other than "What's up?"

Love always,


April 18, 1992

Dear friend,

I have made a terrible mess of things. I really have. I feel terrible about it. Patrick said the best thing I could do is just stay away for a while.

It all started last Monday. Mary Elizabeth came to school with a book of poems by a famous poet named e. e. cummings. The story behind the book was that she saw a movie that talked about one poem that compares this woman's hands to flowers and rain. She thought it was so beautiful that she went out and bought the book. She has read it a lot of times since, and she said she wanted me to have my own copy. Not the copy she bought, but a new one.

All day she told me to show everyone the book.

I know I should have been grateful because it was a very nice thing to do. But I wasn't grateful. I wasn't grateful at all. Don't get me wrong. I acted like I was. But I wasn't. To tell you the truth, I was starting to get mad. Maybe if she would have given me the copy of the book that she bought for herself, it would have been different. Or maybe if
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