The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

she had just hand-copied the rain poem she loves on a piece of nice paper. And definitely if she didn't make me show the book to everyone we know.

Maybe I should have been honest then, but it didn't feel like the right time.

When I left school that day, I didn't go home because I just couldn't talk to her on the phone, and my mother is not a very "adroit" liar about things like that. So, instead, I walked to the area where all the shops and video stores are. I went straight to the bookstore. And when the lady behind the counter asked me if I needed any help, I opened up my bag, and I returned the book Mary Elizabeth bought me. I didn't do anything with the money. It just sat in my pocket.

When I walked home, all I could think was what a terrible thing it was that I just did, and I started crying. By the time I walked in the front door, I was crying so much that my sister stopped watching television to talk to me. When I told her what I did, she drove me back to the bookstore because I was too messy to drive, and I got the book back, which made me feel a little better.

When Mary Elizabeth asked me where I had been all day on the phone that night, I told her that I went to the store with my sister. And when she asked if I bought her something nice, I said I did. I didn't even think she was serious, but I said it anyway. I just felt so bad about almost returning her book. I spent the next hour on the phone listening to her talk about the book. Then, we said good night. Then, I went downstairs to ask my sister if she could drive me to the store again, so I could get Mary Elizabeth something nice. My sister told me to drive myself. And that I had better start being honest with Mary Elizabeth about how I feel. Maybe I should have then, but it just didn't feel like the right time.

The next day in school I gave Mary Elizabeth the gift that I drove to buy her. It was a new copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. The first thing Mary Elizabeth said was,

"That's original."

I just reminded myself that she didn't say it mean. She wasn't making fun of me. She wasn't comparing. Or criticizing. And she really wasn't. Believe me. So, I just explained to her how Bill gives me special books to read outside of class and how To Kill a Mockingbird was the first one. And how it was special to me. Then, she said,

"Thank you. It's very sweet."

But then she went on to explain how she had read it three years earlier and thought it was "overrated" and how they turned it into a black-and-white film with famous actors like Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall that won an Academy Award for the screenplay writer. I just kind of put my feelings away somewhere after that.

I left school, walked around, and didn't get home until one o'clock in the morning. When I explained to my father why, he told me to act like a man.

The next day in school, when Mary Elizabeth asked where I had been the day before, I told her that I bought a pack of cigarettes, went to the Big Boy, and spent the entire day reading the e. e. cummings book and eating club sandwiches. I knew I was safe saying that because she would never ask me any questions about the book. And I was right. After she got done talking about it that time, I didn't think I'd ever really need to read it myself. Even if I wanted to.

I definitely think I should have been honest then, but to tell you the truth, I was getting as mad as I used to get playing sports, and it was starting to scare me.

Luckily, Easter vacation was starting on Friday, and it distracted things a little bit. Bill gave me Hamlet to read for the break. He said I would need the free time to really concentrate on the play. I guess I don't need to say who wrote it. The only advice Bill gave me was to think about the main character in terms of the other main characters in the books I've read thus far. He said not to get caught up thinking the play was "too fancy."

So, on Good Friday yesterday, we had a special showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What made it special was the fact that everyone knew it was the beginning of Easter vacation, and a lot of kids were still wearing their suits and dresses from Mass. It reminded me of Ash Wednesday in school when the kids come in with thumbprints on their foreheads. It always adds an air of excitement.

After the show, Craig invited all of us back to his apartment to drink wine and listen to the White Album. After the record was over, Patrick suggested we all play truth or dare, a game that he loves to play when he's "buzzed."

Guess who chose dares over truth all night? Me. I just didn't want to tell Mary Elizabeth the truth because of a game.

It was working pretty well most of the night. The dares were things like "chug a beer." But then, Patrick gave me a dare. I don't even think he knew what he was doing, but he gave it to me anyway.

"Kiss the prettiest girl in the room on the lips."

That's when I chose to be honest. In retrospect, I probably could not have picked a worse time.

The silence started after I stood up (since Mary Elizabeth was sitting right next to me). By the time I had knelt down in front of Sam and kissed her, the silence was unbearable. It wasn't a romantic kiss. It was friendly, like when I played Rocky and she played Janet. But it didn't matter.

I could say that it was the wine or the beer that I chugged. I could also say that I had forgotten the time Mary Elizabeth asked me if I thought she was pretty. But I would be lying. The truth is that when Patrick dared me, I knew that if I kissed Mary Elizabeth, I would be lying to everyone. Including Sam. Including Patrick. Including Mary Elizabeth. And I just couldn't do it anymore. Even if it was part of a game.

After the silence, Patrick did his best to salvage the evening. The first thing he said was,

"Well, isn't this awkward?"

But it didn't work. Mary Elizabeth walked quickly out of the room and into the bathroom. Patrick told me later that she didn't want anyone to see her cry. Sam followed her, but before she completely left the room, she turned to me and said serious and dark,

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

It was the look on her face when she said it. And how much she meant it. It suddenly made everything seem like it really was. I felt terrible. Just terrible. Patrick immediately stood up and took me out of Craig's apartment. We walked to the street, and the only thing I was aware of was the cold. I said that I should go back inside and apologize. Patrick said,

"No. I'll get our coats. Just stay here."

When Patrick left me outside, I started to cry. It was real and panicky, and I couldn't stop it. When Patrick came back, I said, really crying,

"I really think I should go apologize."

Patrick shook his head. "Believe me. You don't want to go in there."

Then, he jiggled the car keys in front of my face and said, "Come on. I'll take you home."

In the car, I told Patrick everything that had been going on. About the record. And the book. And To Kill a Mockingbird. And how Mary Elizabeth never asked any questions. And all Patrick said was, "It's too bad you're not gay."

That made me stop crying a little bit.

"Then again, if you were gay, I would never date you. You're a mess."

That made me start laughing a little bit.

"And I thought Brad was fucked-up. Jesus."

That made me laugh a lot more. Then, he turned on the radio and we drove through the tunnels back home. When he dropped me off, Patrick told me the best thing to do was keep away for a while. I guess I already told you that. He said that when he knew more, he'd give me a call.

"Thanks, Patrick."

"Don't mention it."

And then I said, "You know, Patrick? If I were gay, I'd want to date you."

I don't know why I said it, but it seemed right.

Patrick just smiled cocky and said, "Of course." Then, he peeled out down the road.

When I lay down in bed that night, I put on the Billie Holiday record, and I started reading the book of e. e. cummings poems. After I read the poem that compares the woman's hands to flowers and rain, I put the book down and went to the window. I stared at my reflection and the trees behind it for a long time. Not thinking anything. Not feeling anything. Not hearing the record. For hours.

Something really is wrong with me. And I don't know what it is.

Love always,


April 26, 1992

Dear friend,

Nobody has called me since that night. I don't blame them. I have spent the whole vacation reading Hamlet. Bill was right. It was much easier to think of the kid in the play like the other characters I've read about so far. It has also helped me while I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with me. It didn't give me any answers necessarily, but it was helpful to know that someone else has been through it. Especially someone who lived such a long time ago.

I did call Mary Elizabeth, and I told her that I'd been listening to the record every night and reading the e. e. cummings book.

She just said, "It's too late, Charlie."

I would have explained that I didn't want to start going on dates again and I was just doing these things as a friend, but I knew it would have only made things worse, so I didn't.

I just said, "I'm sorry."

And I really was sorry. And I know that she believed me. But when that didn't make any difference, and there was nothing but a bad silence on the phone, I really knew it was too late.

Patrick did call me, but all he said was that Craig got really angry at Sam about me, and I should keep staying away until things got clear. I asked him if he would like to go out, just him and me. He said that he would be busy with Brad and family things, but he'd try to call me if he could find the time. So far, he hasn't.

I would tell you about Easter Sunday with my family, but I've already told you about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there really isn't much of a difference.

Except that my father got a raise, and my mother didn't because she doesn't get paid for housework, and my sister stopped reading those self-esteem books because she met a new boy.

My brother did come home, but when I asked him if his girlfriend read my report on Walden, he said no because she broke up with him when she found out he was cheating on her. That happened a while ago. So, I asked him if he had read it himself, and he said that he hadn't because he was too busy. He said he would try to read it over vacation. So far, he hasn't.

So, I went to visit my aunt Helen, and for the first time in my life, it didn't help. I even tried to follow my own plan and remember all the details about the last time I had a great week, but that didn't help, either.

I know that I brought this all on myself. I know that I deserve this. I'd do anything not to be this way. I'd do anything to make it up to everyone. And to not have to see a psychiatrist, who explains to me about being "passive aggressive." And to not have to take the medicine he gives me, which is too expensive for my dad. And to not have to talk about bad memories with him. Or be nostalgic about bad things.

I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what's wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away. And disappear. I know that's wrong because it's my responsibility, and I know that things get worse before they get better because that's what my psychiatrist says, but this is a worse that feels too big.

After a week of not talking to anyone, I finally called Bob. I know that's wrong, but I didn't know what else to do. I asked him if he had anything I could buy. He said he had a quarter ounce of pot left. So, I took some of my Easter money and bought it.

I've been smoking it all the time since.

Love always,


part 4

April 29, 1992

Dear friend,

I wish I could report that it's getting better, but unfortunately it isn't. It's hard, too, because we've started school again, and I can't go to the places where I used to go. And it can't be like it was. And I wasn't ready to say goodbye just yet.

To tell you the truth, I've just been avoiding everything.

I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why. Especially since I know that if they went to another school, the person who had their heart broken would have had their heart broken by somebody else, so why does it have to be so personal? And if I went to another school, I would never have known Sam or Patrick or Mary Elizabeth or anyone except my family.

I can tell you one thing that happened. I was in the shopping mall because that's where I go lately. For the last couple of weeks, I've been going there every day, trying to figure out why people go there. It's kind of a personal project.

There was this one little boy. He might have been four years old. I'm not sure. He was crying really hard, and he kept screaming for his mom. He must have been lost. Then, I saw this older kid, who was maybe seventeen. I think he went to a different school because I had never seen him before. Anyway, this older kid, who was really tough-looking with a leather jacket and long hair and everything, went up to the little boy and asked him what his name was. The little boy answered and stopped crying.

Then, the older kid walked away with the little boy.

A minute later, I heard the intercom say to the mom that her boy was at the information desk. So, I went to the information desk to see what would happen.

I guess the mom had been searching for the little boy for a long time because she came running up to the information desk, and when she saw the little boy, she started crying. She held him tightly and told him to never run off again. Then, she thanked the older kid who had helped, and all the older kid said was, "Next time just watch him a little fucking better."

Then, he walked away.

The man with the moustache behind the information desk was speechless. So was the mom. The little boy just wiped his nose, looked up at his mom, and said,

"French fries."

The mom looked down at the little boy and nodded, and they left. So, I followed them. They went to the place where the food stands are, and they got french fries. The little boy was smiling and getting ketchup all over himself. And the mom kept wiping his face in between taking drags off her cigarette.

I kept looking at the mom, trying to imagine what she must have looked like when she was young. If she was married. If her little boy was an accident or planned. And if that made a difference.

I saw other people there. Old men sitting alone. Young girls with blue eye shadow and awkward jaws. Little kids who looked tired. Fathers in nice coats who looked even more tired. Kids working behind the counters of the food places who looked like they hadn't had the will to live for hours. The machines kept opening and closing. The people kept giving money and getting their change. And it all felt very unsettling to me.

So, I decided to find another place to go and figure out why people go there. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of places like that. I don't know how much longer I can keep going without a friend. I used to be able to do it very easily, but that was before I knew what having a friend was like. It's much easier not to know things sometimes. And to have french fries with your mom be enough.

The only person I've really talked to in the last two weeks was Susan, the girl who used to "go with" Michael back in middle school when she had braces. I saw her standing in the hall, surrounded by a group of boys I didn't know. They were all laughing and making sex jokes, and Susan was doing her best to laugh along with them. When she saw me approaching the group, her face went "ashen." It was almost like she didn't want to remember what she was like twelve months ago, and she certainly didn't want the boys to know that she knew me and used to be my friend. The whole group got quiet and stared at me, but I didn't even notice them. I just looked at Susan, and all I said was,

"Do you ever miss him?"

I didn't say it mean or accusingly. I just wanted to know if anybody else remembered Michael. To tell you the truth, I was stoned in a bad way, and I couldn't get the question out of my mind.

Susan was at a loss. She didn't know what to do. These were the first words we had spoken since the end of last year. I guess it wasn't fair of me to ask her in a group like that, but I never see her by herself anymore, and I really needed to know.

At first, I thought her blank expression was the result of surprise, but after it didn't go away for a long while, I knew that it wasn't. It suddenly dawned on me that if Michael were still around, Susan probably wouldn't be "going out" with him anymore. Not because she's a bad person or shallow or mean. But because things change. And friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody.

"I'm sorry I bothered you, Susan. I'm just having a tough time. That's all. Have a good one," I said and walked away.

"God, that kid is such a fucking freak," I heard one of the boys whisper when I was halfway down the hall. He said it more factual than mean, and Susan didn't correct him. I don't know if I would have corrected him myself these days.

Love always,


May 2, 1992

Dear friend,

A few days ago, I went to see Bob to buy more pot. I should probably say that I keep forgetting Bob doesn't go to school with us. Probably because he watches more television than anyone I know, and he's great with trivia. You should see him talk about Mary Tyler Moore. It's kind of spooky.

Bob has this very specific way of living. He says he takes a shower every other day. He weighs his "stash" daily. He says when you're smoking a cigarette with someone, and you have a lighter, you should light their cigarette first. But if you have matches, you should light your cigarette first, so you breathe in the "harmful sulfur" instead of them. He says it's the polite thing to do. He also says that it's bad luck to have "three on a match." He heard that from his uncle who fought in Vietnam. Something about how three cigarettes was enough time for the enemy to know where you are.

Bob says that when you're alone, and you light a cigarette, and the cigarette is only halfway lit that means someone is thinking about you. He also says that when you find a penny, it's only "
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