The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

riend, Charlie."

I started crying a little bit. I actually think his girlfriend was, too. But Bill wasn't. He looked very solid. I just remember wanting to hug him. But I've never done that before, and I guess Patrick and girls and family don't count. I didn't say anything for a while because I didn't know what to say.

So, finally I just said, "You're the best teacher I ever had."

And he said, "Thank you."

And that was that. Bill didn't try to make sure that I would see him next year if I needed anything. He didn't ask me why I was crying. He just let me hear what he had to say in my own way and let things be. That was probably the best part.

After a few minutes, it was time for me to leave. I don't know who decides these things. It just happens.

So, we went to the door, and Bill's girlfriend hugged me goodbye, which was very nice considering I didn't know her except for today. Then, Bill extended his hand, and I took it. And we shook hands. And I even sneaked in a quick hug before I said "goodbye."

When I was driving home, I just thought about the word "special." And I thought the last person who said that about me was my aunt Helen. I was very grateful to have heard it again. Because I guess we all forget sometimes. And I think everyone is special in their own way. I really do.

My brother gets home tonight. And everyone's graduation is tomorrow. Patrick still hasn't called. I called him, but no one was home again. So, I decided to go out and buy everyone their graduation presents. I really haven't had time to do that until now.

Love always,


June 16, 1992

Dear friend,

I just rode home on the bus. It was the last day of school for me today. And it was raining. When I do ride the bus, I usually sit toward the middle because I've heard sitting in the front is for nerds and sitting in the back is for squids, and the whole thing makes me nervous. I don't know what they call "squids" in other schools.

Anyway, today I decided to sit in the front with my legs over the whole seat. Kind of like I was lying down with my back to the window. I did this so I could look back at the other kids on the bus. I'm glad school buses don't have seat belts, or else I wouldn't have been able to do it.

The one thing I noticed was how different everyone looked. When we were all little, we used to sing songs on the bus ride home from the last day of school. The favorite song was a Pink Floyd song, I found out later, called Another Brick in the Wall, Part II. But there was this other song we loved even more because it ended with a swear. It went like this...

No more pencils/no more books/no more teachers' dirty looks/when the teacher rings the bell/drop your books and run like hell.

When we finished, we looked at the bus driver for a tense second. Then, we all laughed because we knew we could get in trouble for swearing, but the strength of our numbers would prevent any retribution. We were too young to know that the bus driver didn't care about our song. That all he wanted to do was go home after work. And maybe sleep off the drinks he had at lunch. Back then, it didn't matter. The nerds and the squids were one.

My brother came home Saturday night. And he looked even more different than the kids on the school bus looked compared to the beginning of the year. He had a beard! I was so happy! He also smiled different and was more "courteous." We all sat down to dinner, and everyone asked him questions about college. Dad asked about football. Mom asked about classes. I asked for all the fun stories. My sister asked nervous questions about what college is "really" like and would she put on the "freshman fifteen"? I don't know what this is, but I'm guessing it means you get fatter.

I was expecting my brother to just talk and talk about himself for a long time. He would do that whenever there was a big game in high school or the prom or something. But he seemed a lot more interested in what we were all doing, especially my sister with her graduation.

So, while they were talking, I suddenly remembered the TV news sports man and what he said about my brother. I got so excited. And I told my whole family. And this is what happened as a result.

My dad said, "Hey! How about that?!"

My brother said, "Really!?"

I said, "Yeah. I talked to him."

My brother said, "Did he say something good?"

My father said, "Any press is good press." I don't know where my father learns these things.

My brother kept going. "What did he say?"

I said, "Well, I think he said that college sports puts a lot of pressure on the students who do them." My brother kept nodding. "But he said that it built character. And he said that Penn State was looking really good with their recruitment. And he mentioned you."

My dad said, "Hey! How about that?"

My brother said, "Really?"

I said, "Yeah. I talked to him."

My brother said, "When did you talk to him?"

I said, "A couple weeks ago."

And then I froze because I suddenly remembered the other part. The fact that I met the man in the park at night. And the fact that I gave him one of my cigarettes. And the fact that he was trying to pick me up. I just sat there, hoping it would go away. But it didn't.

"Where did you meet him, honey?" my mom asked.

The room turned pins and needles quiet. And I did my best impersonation of myself when I can't remember something. And here's what's going on inside my head.

Okay ...he came to school to have a talk with the class ... no... my sister would know it was a lie ... I met him at the Big Boy ... he was with his family... no... my dad would scold me for bothering the "poor man"...he said it on a news cast ... but I said I talked to him ... wait...

"In the park. I was there with Patrick," I said.

My dad said, "Was he there with his family? Did you bother the poor man?"

"No. He was alone."

That was enough for my dad and everybody else, and I didn't even have to lie. Luckily, the attention was turned off me when my mother said what she likes to say when we're all together celebrating something.

"Who's in the mood for ice cream?"

Everyone was except for my sister. I think she was worried about the "freshman fifteen."

The next morning started early. I still hadn't heard from Patrick or Sam or anybody, but I knew I would see them at graduation, so I tried not to worry too much. All my relatives, including my dad's family from Ohio, came to the house around ten A.M. The two families really don't like each other, except for all us younger cousins because we don't know any better.

We had this big brunch with champagne, and just like last year for my brother's graduation, my mom gave her dad (my grandfather) sparkling apple juice instead of champagne because she didn't want him to get drunk and make a scene. And he said the same thing he said last year.

"This is good champagne."

I don't think he knew the difference because he's a beer drinker. Sometimes, whiskey.

Around twelve-thirty, brunch was over. All the cousins drove all the cars because the adults were still a little too drunk to drive to the graduation. Except for my dad, because he was too busy videotaping everyone with a camera he rented from the video store.

"Why buy a camera when you only need it three times a year?"

So, my sister, brother, dad, mom, and I each had to go in a different car to make sure nobody got lost. I went with all my Ohio cousins, who promptly pulled out a "joint" and passed it around. I didn't smoke any of it because I wasn't in the mood, and they said what they always say.

"Charlie, you're such a pussy."

So, all the cars pulled into the parking lot, and we all got out. And my sister yelled at my cousin Mike for rolling down the window while he was driving and messing up her hair.

"I was smoking a cigarette," was his reply.

"Couldn't you wait ten minutes?" was my sister's.

"But it was a great song," was his final word.

So, as my dad was getting the video camera out of the trunk, and my brother was talking to some of the graduating girls who were a year older and "looking good," my sister went for my mom to get my mom's purse. The great thing about my mom's purse is that no matter what you need at any given moment, she has it. When I was little, I used to call it the "first-aid kit" because that's all we needed back then. I still can't figure out how she does it.

After primping, my sister followed the trail of graduation caps to the field, and we all found our way to the bleachers. I sat in between my mom and brother since my dad was off getting a better camera angle. And my mom kept shushing my grandfather, who kept talking about how many black people were in the school.

When she couldn't stop him, she mentioned my story about the TV news sports man talking about my brother. This made my grandfather call my brother over to talk about it. This was smart on my mom's part because my brother is the only person who can get my grandfather to stop making a scene because he's really direct about it. After the story, this is what happened...

"Jesus. Look at these bleachers. How many colored people--" My brother cut him off.

"Okay, Grandpa. Here's the deal. If you embarrass us one more time, I'm going to drive you back to the nursing home, and you'll never see your granddaughter give a speech." My brother is real tough.

"But then you won't see the speech either, big shot." My grandfather's real tough, too.

"Yeah, but my dad is videotaping it. And I can arrange it so I get to see the tape, and you don't. Can't I?"

My grandfather has a really weird smile. Especially when someone else wins. He didn't say anything more about it. He just started talking about football and didn't even mention anything about my brother playing on a team with black kids. I can't tell you how bad it was last year since my brother was on the field graduating instead of up in the bleachers making my grandfather stop.

While they were talking football, I kept looking for Patrick and Sam, but all I saw were those graduation caps in the distance. When the music started, the caps started marching toward the folding chairs set up on the field. That's when I finally saw Sam walking behind Patrick. I was so relieved. I couldn't really tell if she was happy or sad, but it was enough just to see her and know that she was there.

When all the kids got in the chairs, the music stopped. And Mr. Small got up and gave a speech about what a wonderful class this was. He mentioned some of the achievements the school had made, and he emphasized how much they needed support at the Community Day Bake Sale to start a new computer lab. Then, he introduced the class president, who gave a speech. I don't know what class presidents do, but the girl gave a very good speech.

Then, it was time for the five top honor students to give a speech. That's the tradition in the school. My sister was second in her class, so she gave the fourth speech. The valedictorian is always last. Then, Mr. Small and the vice principal, whom Patrick swears is gay, hand out the diplomas.

The first three speeches were very similar. They all had quotes from pop songs that had something to do with the future. And all through the speeches, I could see my mother's hands. She was gripping them tighter and tighter together.

When they announced my sister's name, my mom uncoiled into applause. It was really great watching my sister get on the podium because my brother was something like 223rd in his class and consequently didn't get to give a speech. And maybe I'm biased, but when my sister quoted a pop song and talked about the future, it seemed great. I looked over at my brother, and he looked over at me. And we both smiled. Then, we looked at my mother, and she was crying real soft and messy, so my brother and I each took one of her hands. She looked at us and smiled and cried harder. Then, we both rested our heads on her shoulders, like a sideways hug, which made her cry even harder. Or maybe it let her cry even harder. I'm not sure which. But she gave our hands a little squeeze and said, "My boys," real soft, and went back to crying. I love my mom so much. I don't care if that's corny to say. I think on my next birthday, I'm going to buy her a present. I think that should be the tradition. The kid gets gifts from everybody, and he buys one present for his mom since she was there, too. I think that would be nice.

When my sister finished her speech, we all clapped and yelled, but nobody clapped or yelled louder than my grandfather. Nobody.

I don't remember what the valedictorian said except that she quoted Henry David Thoreau instead of a pop song.

Then, Mr. Small got up on the stage and asked everyone to refrain from applause until all the names were read and all the diplomas were handed out. I should mention that this didn't work last year either.

So, I saw my sister get her diploma and my mother cry again. And then I saw Mary Elizabeth. And I saw Alice. And I saw Patrick. And I saw Sam. It was a great day. Even when I saw Brad. It seemed okay.

We all met my sister in the parking lot, and the first one to hug her was my grandfather. He really is a proud man in his way. Everyone said how much they loved my sister's speech even if they didn't. Then, we all saw my father walking across the parking lot, holding the video camera above his head triumphantly. I don't think anybody hugged my sister longer than my dad. I looked around for Sam and Patrick, but I couldn't find them anywhere.

On the way home for the party, my Ohio cousins lit up another joint. This time, I took a hit, but they still called me a "pussy." I don't know why. Maybe that's just what Ohio cousins do. That and tell jokes.

"What has 32 legs and 1 tooth?"

"What?" we all asked.

"A West Virginia unemployment line."

Things like that.

When we got home, my Ohio cousins went straight for the bar because graduations seem to be the one occasion where anyone can drink. At least it was like that last year and this year. I wonder what my graduation will be like. It seems very far away.

So, my sister spent the first hour of the party opening up all the gifts, and her smile grew with each check, sweater, or fifty dollar bill. Nobody in our family is rich, but it seems like everybody saves up just enough for these kind of events, and we all pretend we're rich for a day.

The only people who didn't get my sister money or a sweater were my brother and I. My brother promised to take her out one day to shop for college things like soap, which he would pay for, and I bought her a little house that was hand-carved out of stone and painted in England. I told her I wanted to give her something that makes her feel like she's at home even after she goes away. My sister actually kissed my cheek for that.

But the best part of the party happened when my mother came to me and said I had a phone call. I went to the phone.




"When are you coming over?" she asked.

"Now!" I said.

Then, my father, who was drinking a whiskey sour, growled, "You're not going anywhere until your relatives leave. You hear me?"

"Uh, Sam ... I have to wait for my relatives to leave," I said.

"Okay ... we'll be here until seven. Then, we'll call you from wherever we are." Sam really sounded happy.

"Okay, Sam. Congratulations!"

"Thanks, Charlie. Bye."


I hung up the phone.

I swear to you, I thought my relatives would never leave. Every story they told. Every pig in a blanket they ate. Every photograph they looked at, and every time I heard "when you were this high" with the appropriate gesture. It was like the clock stopped. It's not that I minded the stories because I didn't. And the pigs in blankets were quite good. But I wanted to see Sam.

At about 9:30, everyone was stuffed and sober. At 9:45, the hugs were over. At 9:50, the driveway was clear. My father gave me twenty dollars and the keys to his car, saying, "Thanks for sticking around. It meant a lot to me and the family." He was tipsy, but meant it just the same. Sam had told me they were going to a dance club downtown. So, I loaded everyone's gifts in my trunk, climbed in the car, and drove away.

There's something about that tunnel that leads to downtown. It's glorious at night. Just glorious. You start on one side of the mountain, and it's dark, and the radio is loud. As you enter the tunnel, the wind gets sucked away, and you squint from the lights overhead. When you adjust to the lights, you can see the other side in the distance just as the sound of the radio fades to nothing because the waves just can't reach. Then, you're in the middle of the tunnel, and everything becomes a calm dream. As you see the opening get closer, you just can't get there fast enough. And finally, just when you think you'll never get there, you see the opening right in front of you. And the radio comes back even louder than you remember it. And the wind is waiting. And you fly out of the tunnel onto the bridge. And there it is. The city. A million lights and buildings and everything seems as exciting as the first time you saw it. It really is a grand entrance.

After about half an hour looking around the dance club, I finally saw Mary Elizabeth with Peter. They were both drinking scotch and sodas, which Peter bought since he is older and had his hand stamped. I congratulated Mary Elizabeth and asked where everybody was. She told me that Alice was getting high in the ladies' room and Sam and Patrick were on the floor dancing. She said to just have a seat until they come back because she didn't know where they were specifically. So, I sat down and listened to Peter argue with Mary Elizabeth about the Democratic candidates. Again, the clock seemed to stop. I wanted to see Sam that badly.

After about three songs, Sam and Patrick came back completely coated in sweat.


I stood up, and we all hugged like we hadn't seen each other in months. Considering everything that happened, I guess that makes sense. After we let go, Patrick lay on top of Peter and Mary Elizabeth like they were a sofa. Then, he took Mary Elizabeth's drink out of her hand and drank it. "Hey, asshole" was her response. I think he was drunk, even though he hasn't been drinking lately, but Patrick does that stuff sober, so it's hard to tell.

That's when Sam grabbed my hand. "I love this song!"

She led me to the dance floor. And she started dancing. And I started dancing. It was a fast song, so I wasn't very good, but she didn't seem to mind. We were just dancing, and that was enough. The song ended, and then a slow one came on. She looked at me. I looked at her. Then, she took my hands and pulled me in to dance slow. I don't know how to dance slow very wel
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