The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

l either, but I do know how to sway.

Her whisper smelled like cranberry juice and vodka.

"I looked for you in the parking lot today."

I hoped mine still smelled like toothpaste.

"I was looking for you, too."

Then, we were quiet for the rest of the song. She held me a little closer. I held her a little closer. And we kept dancing. It was the one time all day that I really wanted the clock to stop. And just be there for a long time.

After the dance club, we went back to Peter's apartment, and I gave everyone their graduation presents. I gave Alice a film book about Night of the Living Dead, which she liked, and I gave Mary Elizabeth a copy of My Life as a Dog on videotape with the subtitles in it, which she loved.

Then, I gave Patrick and Sam their presents. I even wrapped them up special. I used the Sunday funny papers because they are in color. Patrick tore through his. Sam didn't rip any of the paper. She just plucked off the tape. And they looked at what was inside each box.

I gave Patrick On the Road, Naked Lunch, The Stranger, This Side of Paradise, Peter Pan, and A Separate Peace.

I gave Sam To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, Walden, and The Fountainhead.

Under the books was a card that I wrote using the typewriter Sam bought me. The cards said that these were my copies of all my favorite books, and I wanted Sam and Patrick to have them because they were my two favorite people in the whole world.

When they both looked up from reading, they were quiet. Nobody smiled or cried or did anything. We were just open, looking at each other. They knew I meant the cards I wrote. And I knew it meant a lot to them.

"What do the cards say?" Mary Elizabeth asked.

"Do you mind, Charlie?" Patrick asked.

I shook my head no, and they each read their cards while I went to fill up my coffee cup with red wine.

When I came back, they all looked at me, and I said, "I'm going to miss you all very much. I hope you have a great time at college." And then I started crying because it suddenly hit me that they were all leaving. I think Peter thinks I'm a little strange. So, Sam stood up and took me into the kitchen, telling me on the way there that it was "okay." When we got to the kitchen, I was a little more calm.

Sam said, "You know I'm leaving in a week, Charlie?"

"Yeah. I know."

"Don't start crying again."

"Okay."

"I want you to listen."

"Okay."

"I'm really scared to be alone at college."

"You are?" I asked. I never really thought of that before.

"Just like you're really scared to be alone here."

"Okay." I nodded.

"So, I'll make you a deal. When things get to be too much at college, I'll call you, and when things get to be too much here, you call me."

"Could we write letters back and forth?"

"Of course," she said.

Then, I started crying again. I really am a roller-coaster sometimes. But Sam was patient.

"Charlie, I'm going to be back at the end of the summer, but before we think about that, let's just enjoy this last week together. All of us. Okay?"

I nodded and calmed down.

We spent the rest of the night just drinking and listening to music like we always did, but this time it was at Peter's, and it was better than Craig's, actually, because Peter has a better music collection. It was about one o'clock in the morning when it suddenly occurred to me.

"Oh my God!" I said.

"What's wrong, Charlie?"

"Tomorrow's a school day!"

I don't think I could have made them laugh harder.

Peter took me into the kitchen to make coffee, so I could sober up to drive home. I had about eight cups in a row and was ready to drive in about twenty minutes. The problem was, by the time I got home, I was so awake from the coffee, I couldn't fall asleep. By the time I got to school, I felt like dying. Luckily, all the finals were over, and all we did all day was watch film strips. I don't think I ever slept better. I was glad, too, because school really is lonely without them.

Today was different because I didn't sleep, and I didn't get to see Sam or Patrick last night because they were having a special dinner out with their parents. And my brother was on a date with one of the girls who was "looking good" at graduation. My sister was busy with her boyfriend. And my mom and dad were still tired from the graduation party.

Today, pretty much every teacher just let the kids sit around and talk after we handed in our textbooks. I honestly didn't know anybody, except maybe for Susan, but after that time in the hallway, she's avoided me more than ever. So, I didn't really talk. The only good class was Bill's because I got to talk to Bill. It was hard saying goodbye to him after class was over, but he said that it wasn't goodbye. I could call him anytime over the summer if I wanted to talk or borrow books, and that made me feel a little better.

This one kid with crooked teeth named Leonard called me a "teacher's pet" in the hallway after Bill's class, but I didn't mind because I think he missed the point somewhere.

I ate lunch outside on a bench where we all used to smoke. After I ate my Ho-Ho, I lit up a cigarette, and I was kind of hoping someone would ask me for one, but no one did.

When the last class was over, everyone was cheering and making plans with each other for the summer. And everyone was clearing out their lockers by throwing their old papers and notes and books on the hallway floor. When I got to my locker, I saw this skinny kid who had the locker next to me all year. I had never really talked to him before.

I cleared my throat and said, "Hey. My name is Charlie."

All he said was, "I know."

Then, he closed his locker door and walked away.

So, I just opened my locker, put all my old papers and things in my backpack, and walked over the debris of books and papers and notes in the hallway to the parking lot outside. Then, I got on the bus. Then, I wrote this letter to you.

I'm actually really glad that the school year is over. I want to spend a lot of time with everyone before they leave. Especially Sam.

By the way, I ended up getting straight A's this whole year. My mother was very proud and put my report card on the refrigerator.

Love always,

Charlie


June 22, 1992

Dear friend,

The night before Sam was going to leave made the whole week a blur. Sam was frantic because not only did she need to spend time with us, but she had to get ready to go. Buying things. Packing things. Things like that.

Every night, we would all get together after Sam had just said goodbye to some uncle or had another lunch with her mom or had done more shopping for school things. She was scared, and it wasn't until she had a sip of whatever we were drinking or a hit off of whatever we were smoking that she would calm down and be the same Sam.

The one thing that really helped Sam through her week was her lunch with Craig. She said she wanted to see him to have some kind of "closure," and I guess she was lucky enough to get it because Craig was nice enough to tell her that she was right to break up with him. And that she was a special person. And that he was sorry and wished her well. It's strange the times people choose to be generous.

The best part was that Sam said she didn't ask him about the girls he might be dating even though she wanted to know. She wasn't bitter. She was sad, though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time.

On the night before she left, we were all there at Sam and Patrick's house. Bob, Alice, Mary Elizabeth (without Peter), and I. We just sat on the rug in the "games" room, remembering things.

Remember the show where Patrick did this... or remember when Bob did this... or Charlie... or Mary Elizabeth... or Alice... or Sam...

The inside jokes weren't jokes anymore. They had become stories. Nobody brought up the bad names or the bad times. And nobody felt sad as long as we could postpone tomorrow with more nostalgia.

After a while, Mary Elizabeth and Bob and Alice left, saying they would be back in the morning to see Sam off. So, it was just me, Patrick, and Sam. Just sitting there. Not saying much. Until we started our own remember when.

Remember when Charlie first came to us at the football game...and remember when Charlie let the air our of Dave's tires at the homecoming dance...and remember the poem... and the mix tape... and Punk Rocky in color...and remember when we all felt infinite...

After I said that, we all got quiet and sad. In the silence, I remembered this one time that I never told anybody about. The time we were walking. Just the three of us. And I was in the middle. I don't remember where we were walking to or where we were walking from. I don't even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere.

Finally, Patrick stood up.

"I'm tired, guys. Good night."

Then, he messed up our hair and went up to his room. Sam turned to me.

"Charlie, I have to pack up some things. Would you stay with me for a while?"

I nodded, and we went upstairs.

As we entered her room, I noticed how different it looked from the night Sam kissed me. The pictures were down, and the dressers were empty, and everything was in a big pile on the bed. I said to myself that I would not cry no matter what because I didn't want to make Sam feel any more panicked than she already was.

So, I just watched her pack, and I tried to notice as many details as I possibly could. Her long hair and her thin wrists and her green eyes. I wanted to remember everything. Especially the sound of her voice.

Sam talked about a lot of things, trying to keep herself distracted. She talked about what a long drive they had tomorrow and how her parents had rented a van. She wondered what her classes would be like and what her eventual "major" would be. She said she didn't want to join a sorority but was looking forward to the football games. She was just getting more and more sad. Finally, she turned around.

"Why didn't you ask me out when the whole Craig thing happened?"

I just sat there. I didn't know what to say. She said it soft.

"Charlie ... after that thing with Mary Elizabeth at the party and us dancing at the club and everything ..."

I didn't know what to say. Honestly, I was lost.

"Okay, Charlie ... I'll make this easy. When that whole thing with Craig happened, what did you think?" She really wanted to know.

I said, "Well, I thought a lot of things. But mostly, I thought that your being sad was much more important to me than Craig not being your boyfriend anymore. And if it meant that I would never get to think of you that way, as long as you were happy, it was okay. That's when I realized that I really loved you."

She sat down on the floor with me. She spoke quiet.

"Charlie, don't you get it? I can't feel that. It's sweet and everything, but it's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things."

"Like what?" I asked. My mouth was dry.

"I don't know. Like take their hands when the slow song comes up for a change. Or be the one who asks someone for a date. Or tell people what you need. Or what you want. Like on the dance floor, did you want to kiss me?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Then, why didn't you?" she asked real serious.

"Because I didn't think you wanted me to."

"Why did you think that?"

"Because of what you said."

"What I said nine months ago? When I told you not to think of me that way?"

I nodded.

"Charlie, I also told you not to tell Mary Elizabeth she was pretty. And to ask her a lot of questions and not interrupt her. Now she's with a guy who does the exact opposite. And it works because that's who Peter really is. He's being himself. And he does things."

"But I didn't like Mary Elizabeth."

"Charlie, you're missing the point. The point is that I don't think you would have acted different even if you did like Mary Elizabeth. It's like you can come to Patrick's rescue and hurt two guys that are trying to hurt him, but what about when Patrick's hurting himself? Like when you guys went to that park? Or when he was kissing you? Did you want him to kiss you?"

I shook my head no.

"So, why did you let him?"

"I was just trying to be a friend," I said.

"But you weren't, Charlie. At those times, you weren't being his friend at all. Because you weren't honest with him."

I sat there very still. I looked at the floor. I didn't say anything. Very uncomfortable.

"Charlie, I told you not to think of me that way nine months ago because of what I'm saying now. Not because of Craig. Not because I didn't think you were great. It's just that I don't want to be somebody's crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don't like, I'll tell them."

She was starting to cry a little. But she wasn't sad.

"You know I blamed Craig for not letting me do things? You know how stupid I feel about that now? Maybe he didn't really encourage me to do things, but he didn't prevent me from doing them either. But after a while, I didn't do things because I didn't want him to think different about me. But the thing is, I wasn't being honest. So, why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn't really even know me?"

I looked up at her. She had stopped crying.

"So, tomorrow, I'm leaving. And I'm not going to let that happen again with anyone else. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is. But right now I'm here with you. And I want to know where you are, what you need, and what you want to do."

She waited patiently for my answer. But after everything she said, I figured that I should just do what I wanted to do. Not think about it. Not say it out loud. And if she didn't like it, then she could just say so. And we could go back to packing.

So, I kissed her. And she kissed me back. And we lay down on the floor and kept kissing. And it was soft. And we made quiet noises. And kept silent. And still. We went over to the bed and lay down on all the things that weren't put in suitcases. And we touched each other from the waist up over our clothes. And then under our clothes. And then without clothes. And it was so beautiful. She was so beautiful. She took my hand and slid it under her pants. And I touched her. And I just couldn't believe it. It was like everything made sense. Until she moved her hand under my pants, and she touched me.

That's when I stopped her.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "Did that hurt?"

I shook my head. It felt good actually. I didn't know what was wrong.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

"No. Don't be sorry," I said.

"But, I feel bad," she said.

"Please don't feel bad. It was very nice," I said. I was starting to get really upset.

"You're not ready?" she asked.

I nodded. But that wasn't it. I didn't know what it was.

"It's okay that you're not ready," she said. She was being really nice to me, but I was just feeling so bad.

"Charlie, do you want to go home?" she asked.

I guess I nodded because she helped me get dressed. And then she put on her shirt. And I wanted to kick myself for being such a baby. Because I loved Sam. And we were together. And I was ruining it. Just ruining it. Just terrible. I felt so terrible.

She took me outside.

"Do you need a ride?" she asked. I had my father's car. I wasn't drunk. She looked really worried.

"No, thanks."

"Charlie, I'm not going to let you drive like this."

"I'm sorry. I'll walk then," I said.

"It's two o'clock in the morning. I'm driving you home."

She went to another room to get the car keys. I just stood in the entry hall. I felt like I wanted to die.

"You're white as a sheet, Charlie. Do you need some water?"

"No. I don't know." I started to cry really hard.

"Here. Just lie down on the couch," she said.

She laid me down on the couch. She brought out a damp washcloth and put it on my forehead.

"You can sleep here tonight. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Just calm down. Take deep breaths."

I did what she told me. And just before I fell asleep, I said something.

"I can't do that anymore. I'm sorry," I said.

"It's okay, Charlie. Just go to sleep," Sam said.

But I wasn't talking to Sam anymore. I was talking to someone else.

When I fell asleep, I had this dream. My brother and my sister and I were watching television with my Aunt Helen. Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And she was doing what Sam was doing. That's when I woke up. And I didn't know what the hell was going on. Sam and Patrick were standing over me. Patrick asked if I wanted some breakfast. I guess I nodded. We went and ate. Sam still looked worried. Patrick looked normal. We had bacon and eggs with their parents, and everyone made small talk. I don't know why I'm telling you about bacon and eggs. It's not important. It's not important at all. Mary Elizabeth and everyone came over, and while Sam's mom was busy checking everything twice, we all walked to the driveway. Sam and Patrick's parents got in the van. Patrick got in the driver's side of Sam's pickup truck, telling everyone he'd see them in a couple of days. Then, Sam hugged and said goodbye to everyone. Since she was coming back for a few days toward the end of the summer, it was more of a "see ya" than a goodbye.

I was last. Sam walked up and held me for a long time. Finally, she whispered in my ear. She said a lot of wonderful things about how it was okay that I wasn't ready last night and how she would miss me and how she wanted me to take care of myself while she was gone.

"You're my best friend," was all I could say in return.

She smiled and kissed my cheek, and it was like for a moment, the bad part of last night disappeared. But it still felt like a goodbye rather than a "see ya." The thing was, I didn't cry. I didn't know what I felt.

Finally, Sam climbed into her pickup, and Patrick started
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