The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

it up. And a great song was playing. And everyone smiled. Including me. But I wasn't there anymore.

It wasn't until I couldn't see the cars that I came back and things started feeling bad again. But this time, they felt much worse. Mary Elizabeth and everyone were crying now, and they asked me if I wanted to go to the Big Boy or something. I told them no. Thank you. I need to go home.

"Are you okay, Charlie?" Mary Elizabeth asked. I guess I was starting to look bad again because she looked worried.

"I'm fine. I'm just tired," I lied. I got in my dad's car, and drove away. And I could hear all these songs on the radio, but the radio wasn't on. And when I got into the driveway, I think I forgot to turn off the car. I just went to the couch in the family room where the TV is. And I could see the TV shows, but the TV wasn't on.

I don't know what's wrong with me. It's like all I can do is keep writing this gibberish to keep from breaking apart. Sam's gone. And Patrick won't be home for a few days. And I just couldn't talk with Mary Elizabeth or anybody or my brother or anybody in my family. Except maybe my aunt Helen. But she's gone. And even if she were here, I don't think I could talk to her either. Because I'm starting to feel like what I dreamt about her last night was true. And my psychiatrist's questions weren't weird after all.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do now. I know other people have it a lot worse. I do know that, but it's crashing in anyway, and I just can't stop thinking that the little kid eating french fries with his mom in the shopping mall is going to grow up and hit my sister. I'd do anything not to think that. I know I'm thinking too fast again, and it's all in my head like the trance, but it's there, and it won't go away. I just keep seeing him, and he keeps hitting my sister, and he won't stop, and I want him to stop because he doesn't mean it, but he just doesn't listen, and I don't know what to do.

I'm sorry, but I have to stop this letter now.

But first, I want to thank you for being one of those people who listens and understands and doesn't try to sleep with people even though you could have. I really mean it, and I'm sorry I've put you through this when you don't even know who I am, and we've never met in person, and I can't tell you who I am because I promised to keep all those little secrets. I just don't want you to think that I picked your name out of the phone book. It would kill me if you thought that. So, please believe me when I tell you that I felt terrible after Michael died, and I saw a girl in class, who didn't notice me, and she talked all about you to a friend of hers. And even though I didn't know you, I felt like I did because you sounded like such a good person. The kind of person who wouldn't mind receiving letters from a kid. The kind of person who would understand how they were better than a diary because there is communion and a diary can be found. I just don't want you to worry about me, or think that you've met me, or waste your time anymore. I'm so sorry that I wasted your time because you really do mean a lot to me and I hope you have a very nice life because I really think you deserve it. I really do. I hope you do, too. Okay, then. Goodbye.

Love always,



August 23, 1992

Dear friend,

I've been in the hospital for the past two months. They just released me yesterday. The doctor told me that my mother and father found me sitting on the couch in the family room. I was completely naked, just watching the television, which wasn't on. I wouldn't speak or snap out of it, they said. My father even slapped me to wake me up, and like I told you, he never hits. But it didn't work. So, they brought me to the hospital where I stayed when I was seven after my aunt Helen died. They told me I didn't speak or acknowledge anyone for a week. Not even Patrick, whom I guess visited me during that time. It's scary to think about.

All I remember is putting the letter in the mailbox. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a doctor's office. And I remembered my aunt Helen. And I started to cry. And the doctor, who turned out to be a very nice woman, started asking me questions. Which I answered.

I don't really want to talk about the questions and the answers. But I kind of figured out that everything I dreamt about my aunt Helen was true. And after a while, I realized that it happened every Saturday when we would watch television.

The first few weeks in the hospital were very hard.

The hardest part was sitting in the doctor's office when the doctor told my mom and dad what had happened. I have never seen my mother cry so much. Or my father look so angry. Because they didn't know it was happening when it was.

But the doctor has helped me work out a lot of things since then. About my aunt Helen. And about my family. And friends. And me. There are a lot of stages to these kinds of things, and she was really great through all of them.

The thing that helped me the most, though, was the time I could have visitors. My family, including my brother and sister, always came for those days until my brother had to go back to school to play football. After that, my family came without my brother, and my brother sent me cards. He even told me on his last card that he read my report on Walden and liked it a lot, which made me feel really good. Just like the first time I saw Patrick. The best thing about Patrick is that even when you're in a hospital, he doesn't change. He just cracks jokes to make you feel better instead of asking you questions about feeling worse. He even brought me a letter from Sam, and Sam said that she was coming back at the end of August, and if I got better by then, she and Patrick would drive me through the tunnel. And this time, I could stand in the back of the pickup truck if I wanted to. Things like that helped more than anything.

The days when I received mail were good, too. My grandfather sent me a really nice letter. So did my great aunt. So did my grandma and Great Uncle Phil. My Aunt Rebecca even sent me flowers with a card that was signed by all my Ohio cousins. It was nice to know that they were thinking about me just like it was nice the time Patrick brought Mary Elizabeth and Alice and Bob and everyone for a visit. Including Peter and Craig. I guess they're friends again. And I was glad they were. Just like I was glad that Mary Elizabeth did most of the talking. Because it made things feel more normal. Mary Elizabeth even stayed a little later than the others. I was so happy to have a chance to talk with her alone before she left for Berkeley. Just like I was happy for Bill and his girlfriend when they came to see me two weeks ago. They're getting married this November, and they want me to go to their wedding. It's nice to have things to look forward to.

The time it started to feel like everything was going to be all right was the time when my sister and brother stayed after my parents had left. This was some time in July. They asked me a lot of questions about Aunt Helen because I guess nothing had ever happened to them. And my brother looked really sad. And my sister looked really mad. It was at that time that things started to get clearer because there was nobody to hate anymore after that.

What I mean is that I looked at my brother and sister, and I thought that maybe someday they would be an aunt and uncle, just like I would be an uncle. Just like my mother and Aunt Helen were sisters.

And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn't do or what they didn't know. I don't know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. Maybe if my grandfather didn't hit her, my mom wouldn't be so quiet. And maybe she wouldn't have married my dad because he doesn't hit. And maybe I would never have been born. But I'm very glad to have been born, so I don't know what to say about it all especially since my mom seems happy with her life, and I don't know what else there is to want.

It's like if I blamed my aunt Helen, I would have to blame her dad for hitting her and the friend of the family that fooled around with her when she was little. And the person that fooled around with him. And God for not stopping all this and things that are much worse. And I did do that for a while, but then I just couldn't anymore. Because it wasn't going anywhere. Because it wasn't the point.

I'm not the way I am because of what I dreamt and remembered about my aunt Helen. That's what I figured out when things got quiet. And I think that's very important to know. It made things feel clear and together. Don't get me wrong. I know what happened was important. And I needed to remember it. But it's like when my doctor told me the story of these two brothers whose dad was a bad alcoholic. One brother grew up to be a successful carpenter who never drank. The other brother ended up being a drinker as bad as his dad was. When they asked the first brother why he didn't drink, he said that after he saw what it did to his father, he could never bring himself to even try it. When they asked the other brother, he said that he guessed he learned how to drink on his father's knee. So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.

I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won't tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn't change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad. Just like what my sister said when I had been in the hospital for a while. She said that she was really worried about going to college, and considering what I was going through, she felt really dumb about it. But I don't know why she would feel dumb. I'd be worried, too. And really, I don't think I have it any better or worse than she does. I don't know. It's just different. Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Like Sam said. Because it's okay to feel things. And be who you are about them.

When I got released yesterday, my mom drove me home. It was in the afternoon, and she asked me if I was hungry. And I said yes. Then, she asked me what I wanted, and I told her I wanted to go to McDonald's like we did when I was little and got sick and stayed home from school. So, we went there. And it was so nice to be with my mom and eat french fries. And later that night to be with my family at dinnertime and have things just be like they always were. That was the amazing part. Things just keep going. We didn't talk about anything heavy or light. We were just there together. And that was enough.

So, today my father went to work. And my mother took my sister and me out to take care of last-minute things for my sister since she's leaving for college in a few days. When we got back, I called Patrick's house because he said that Sam should be home by then. Sam answered the phone. And it was so nice to hear her voice.

Later, they came by in Sam's pickup truck. And we went to the Big Boy just like we always did. Sam told us about her life at school, which sounded very exciting. And I told her about my life in the hospital, which didn't. And Patrick made jokes to keep everyone honest. After we left, we got in Sam's pickup truck, and just like Sam promised, we drove to the tunnel.

About half a mile from the tunnel, Sam stopped the car, and I climbed in back. Patrick played the radio really loud so I could hear it, and as we were approaching the tunnel, I listened to the music and thought about all the things that people have said to me over the past year. I thought about Bill telling me I was special. And my sister saying she loved me. And my mom, too. And even my dad and brother when I was in the hospital. I thought about Patrick calling me his friend. And I thought about Sam telling me to do things. To really be there. And I just thought how great it was to have friends and a family.

As we went into the tunnel, I didn't hold up my arms like I was flying. I just let the wind rush over my face. And I started crying and smiling at the same time. Because I couldn't help feeling just how much I loved my aunt Helen for buying me two presents. And how much I wanted the present I bought my mom for my birthday to be really special. And how much I wanted my sister and brother and Sam and Patrick and everyone else to be happy.

But mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I saw downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.

Tomorrow, I start my sophomore year of high school. And believe it or not, I'm really not that afraid of going. I'm not sure if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to "participate."

So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough.

And I will believe the same about you.

Love always,


stephen chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. He wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed film adaptation of Rent, and helped edit John Leguizamo's one-man Broadway show, sexaholix, to which he also contributed material. He also edited Pieces, a collection of short stories for Pocket Books. He is currently working on a pilot for CBS, entitled Jericho.

the perks of being a wallflower is his first novel.

Table of Contents

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
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