The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


That's why on the back of a brown paper bag

he tried another poem

And he called it "Absolutely Nothing"

Because that's what it was really all about

And he gave himself an A

and a slash on each damned wrist

And he hung it on the bathroom door

because this time he didn't think

he could reach the kitchen.

That was the poem I read for Patrick. Nobody knew who wrote it, but Bob said he heard it before, and he heard that it was some kid's suicide note. I really hope it wasn't because then I don't know if I like the ending.

Love always,


December 23, 1991

Dear friend,

Sam and Patrick left with their family for the Grand Canyon yesterday. I don't feel too bad about it because I can still remember Sam's kiss. It feels peaceful and right. I even considered not washing my lips like they do on TV, but then I thought it would get too gross. So, instead I spent today walking around the neighborhood. I even got out my old sled and my old scarf. There is something cozy about that for me.

I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn't.

I'm really glad that Christmas and my birthday are soon because that means they will be over soon because I can already feel myself going to a bad place I used to go. After my Aunt Helen was gone, I went to that place. It got so bad that my mom had to take me to a doctor, and I was held back a grade. But now I'm trying not to think about it too much because that makes it worse.

It's kind of like when you look at yourself in the mirror and you say your name. And it gets to a point where none of it seems real. Well, sometimes, I can do that, but I don't need an hour in front of a mirror. It happens very fast, and things start to slip away. And I just open my eyes, and I see nothing. And then I start to breathe really hard trying to see something, but I can't. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it scares me.

It almost happened this morning, but I thought of Sam's kiss, and it went away.

I probably shouldn't be writing about this too much because it brings it up too much. It makes me think too much. And I am trying to participate. It's just hard because Sam and Patrick are in the Grand Canyon.

Tomorrow, I'm going with my mom to buy presents for everyone. And then we are celebrating my birthday. I was born on December 24. I don't know if I ever told you that. It's a strange birthday to have because it is so close to Christmas. After that, we are celebrating Christmas with my dad's family, and my brother will be home for a little while. Then, I'm going out to take my driver's test, so I will be busy while Sam and Patrick are gone.

Tonight, I watched some television with my sister, but she didn't want to watch the Christmas specials that were on, so I decided to go upstairs and read.

Bill gave me one book to read over the break. It's The Catcher in the Rye. It was Bill's favorite book when he was my age. He said it was the kind of book you made your own.

I read the first twenty pages. I don't know how I feel about it just yet, but it does seem appropriate to this time. I hope Sam and Patrick call on my birthday. It would make me feel much better.

Love always,


December 25, 1991

Dear friend,

I am sitting in my dad's old bedroom in Ohio. The family is still downstairs. I really don't feel very well. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm starting to get scared. I wish we were going back home tonight, but we always sleep over. I don't want to tell my mom about it because it would just make her worry. I would tell Sam and Patrick, but they didn't call yesterday. And we left this morning after we opened presents. Maybe they called this afternoon. I hope they didn't call this afternoon because I wasn't there. I hope it's okay that I'm telling you this. I just don't know what else to do. I always get sad when this happens, and I wish Michael were here. And I wish my Aunt Helen were here. I miss my Aunt Helen like this. Reading the book isn't helping either. I don't know. I'm just thinking too fast. Much too fast. It's like tonight.

The family watched It's a Wonderful Life, which is a very beautiful movie. And all I could think was why didn't they make the movie about Uncle Billy? George Bailey was an important man in the town. Because of him, a whole bunch of people got to get out of the slums. He saved a town, and when his dad died, he was the only guy who could do it. He wanted to live an adventure, but he stayed behind and sacrificed his dreams for the better good of the community. And then when that made him sad, he was going to kill himself. He was going to die because his life insurance money would have taken care of his family. And then an angel comes down and shows him what life would be if he had never been born. How the whole town would have suffered. And how his wife would have been an "old maid." And my sister didn't even say anything about how that's such an old-fashioned thing, this year. Every other year she says something about how Mary was working for a living, and just because she's not married, it doesn't mean that she is worthless. But this year she didn't. I didn't know why. I thought it might be about that secret boy of hers. Or maybe it's what happened in the car on the way over to our grandma's house. I just wanted the movie to be about Uncle Billy because he drank a lot and was fat and lost the money in the first place. I wanted the angel to come down and show us how Uncle Billy's life had meaning. Then, I think I'd feel better.

It started yesterday at home. I don't like my birthday. I don't like it at all. I went shopping with my mom and sister, and my mom was in a bad mood because of parking spaces and lines. And my sister was in a bad mood because she couldn't buy her secret boy a present and hide it from Mom. She would have to come back herself later. And I felt weird. Really weird, because as I was walking around all the stores, I didn't know what present my dad would like to receive from me, I knew what to buy or give Sam and Patrick, but I didn't know what I could buy or give or make for my own dad. My brother likes posters of girls and beer cans. My sister likes a haircut gift certificate. My mom likes old movies and plants. My dad only likes golf, and that is not a winter sport except for in Florida, and we don't live there. And he doesn't play baseball anymore. He doesn't like to be even reminded unless he tells the stories. I just wanted to know what to buy my dad because I love him. And I don't know him. And he doesn't like to talk about things like that.

"Well, why don't you chip in with your sister and buy him that sweater?"

"I don't want to. I want to buy him something. What kind of music does he like?"

My dad doesn't listen to music a lot anymore, and the stuff he likes, he has.

"What kind of books does he like to read?"

My dad doesn't read books too much anymore because he listens to books on cassette tapes on the way to work, and he gets them free from the library.

What kind of movies? What kind of anything?

My sister decided to buy the sweater on her own. And she started to get mad at me because she needed time to come back to the store to buy that present for her secret boyfriend.

"Just buy him some golf balls, Charlie. Jesus."

"But that's a summer sport."

"Mom. Would you make him buy something?"

"Charlie. Calm down. It's okay."

I felt so sad. I didn't know what was going on. Mom was trying to be really nice because when I get like this, she is the one that tries real hard to keep things calm.

"I'm sorry, Mom."

"No. Don't be sorry. You want to get a nice present for your father. That's a good thing."

"Mom!" My sister was really getting mad.

My mom didn't even look at my sister.

"Charlie, you can buy your father whatever you want. I know he'll love it. Now, calm down. It's okay."

My mom took me to four different stores. Each one my sister just sat in the nearest chair and groaned. I finally found the perfect store. It was a movie place. And I found a videocassette of the last episode of M*A*S*H without the commercials. And I felt a lot better. Then, I started telling Mom about how we all watched it together.

"She knows, Charlie. She was there. Let's go. Duh."

My mom told my sister to mind her own business, and she listened to me tell the story that she already knew, leaving out the part about my dad crying because that was our little secret. My mom even told me how I tell stories very well. I love my mom. And this time, I told her I loved her. And she told me she loved me, too. And things were okay for a little while.

We were sitting at the dinner table, waiting for my dad to come home with my brother from the airport. He was really late, and my mom started to worry because it was snowing really hard outside. And she kept my sister at home because she needed help with dinner. She wanted it to be extra special for my brother and for me because he was coming home, and it was my birthday. But my sister just wanted to buy her boyfriend a present. She was in a really bad mood. She was being like those bratty girls in movies from the 1980s, and my mom kept saying "Young lady" after every sentence.

My dad finally called and said that because of the snow, my brother's plane was going to be very late. I just heard my mom's side of the discussion.

"But it's Charlie's birthday dinner... I don't expect you to do anything about it... did he miss it? I'm just asking... I didn't say it was your fault... no... I can't keep it warm... it'll be dry... what... but it's his favorite... well, what am I supposed to feed them... of course they're hungry... you're already an hour late... well, you could have called..."

I don't know how long my mom was on the phone because I couldn't stay at the table and listen. I went into my room and read. I wasn't hungry anymore anyway. I just wanted to be in a quiet place. After a little while, my mom came into the room. She said that dad had just called again, and they should be home in thirty minutes. She asked me if anything was wrong, and I knew that she didn't mean my sister, and I knew that she didn't mean she and Dad fighting on the phone because that stuff just happens sometimes. She just noticed that I looked very sad today, and she didn't think it was my friends leaving because I looked okay yesterday when I came back from sledding.

"Is it your aunt Helen?"

It was the way she said it that started me feeling.

"Please, don't do this to yourself, Charlie."

But I did do it to myself. Like I do every year on my birthday.

"I'm sorry."

My mom wouldn't let me talk about it. She knows that I stop listening and start to really breathe fast. She covered my mouth and wiped at my eyes. I calmed down enough to make it downstairs. And I calmed down enough to be glad when my brother came home. And when we ate dinner, it wasn't too dry. Then, we went outside to put up luminaria, which is an activity where all our neighbors fill brown paper bags with sand and line the street with them. Then, we stick a candle in the sand of each bag, and when we light the candles, it turns the street into a "landing strip" for Santa Claus. I love putting luminaria up every year because it is very beautiful and a tradition and a good distraction from my birthday.

My family gave me some really nice birthday presents. My sister was still mad at me, but she got me a Smiths record anyway. And my brother got me a poster signed by the whole football team. My dad gave me some records that my sister told him to buy. And my mom gave me some of the books she loved when she was a kid. One of them was The Catcher in the Rye.

I started reading my mom's copy from the place I left off with Bill's copy. And it made me not think about my birthday. All I thought was that I am going to take my driver's test sometime soon enough. That was a pretty good thing to think about. And then I thought about my driver's education class this past semester.

Mr. Smith, who is kind of short and smells funny, wouldn't let any of us turn on the radio as we rode around. There were also two sophomores, one boy and one girl. They used to secretly touch each other's legs in the backseat when it was my turn. Then, there was me. I wish I had a lot of stories about driver's education class. Sure, there were these movies about death on the highway. And sure there were police officers coming to talk to us. And sure it was fun to get my learner's permit, but Mom and Dad said they didn't want me driving until I absolutely had to because insurance is so expensive. And I could never ask Sam to drive her pickup truck. I just couldn't.

These kind of things kept me calm the night of my birthday.

The next morning Christmas started out nice. Dad liked his copy of M*A*S*H a lot, which made me so happy, especially when he told his own story about that night we watched it. He left out the part about him crying, but he winked at me, so I knew he remembered. Even the two-hour drive to Ohio was actually okay for the first half hour, even though I had to sit on the hump in the backseat, because my dad kept asking questions about college, and my brother kept talking. He is dating one of those cheerleader girls who does flips during college football games. Her name is Kelly. My dad was very interested in that. My sister made some remark about how cheerleading is stupid and sexist, and my brother told her to shut up. Kelly was majoring in philosophy. I asked my brother if Kelly was unconventionally beautiful.

"No, she's hot beautiful."

And my sister started talking about how the way a woman looks is not the most important thing. I agreed, but then my brother started saying how my sister was just a "bitchy dyke." Then, my mom told my brother to not use such language in front of me, which was strange considering I am probably the only one in the family with a friend who is gay. Maybe not, but one who actually talks about it. I'm not sure. Regardless, my dad asked how my brother and Kelly met.

My brother and Kelly met at a restaurant called Ye Olde College Inn or something like that at Penn State. They supposedly have this famous dessert called "grilled stickies." Anyway, Kelly was with her sorority sisters, and they started to leave, and she dropped her book right in front of my brother, and she kept walking. My brother said that although Kelly denies this, he's sure that she dropped the book on purpose. The leaves were in full bloom when he caught up with her in front of the video arcade. That's how he described it anyway. They spent the rest of the afternoon playing old video games like Donkey Kong and feeling nostalgic, which as a general statement, I found sad and sweet. I asked my brother if Kelly drank cocoa.

"Are you high?"

And again my mom asked my brother not to use such language in front of me, which was strange again because I think I'm the only person in my family who's ever been high. Maybe also my brother. I'm not sure. Definitely not my sister. Then again, maybe my whole family has been high, and we just don't tell each other these things.

My sister spent the next ten minutes denouncing the Greek system of sororities and fraternities. She kept telling stories of "hazing" and how kids have died before. She then told this one story about how she heard there was a sorority that made the new girls stand in their underwear while they circled their "fat" in red magic markers. My brother had had enough of my sister at that point.


I still can't believe that my brother swore in the car, and my dad or mom didn't say anything. I guess because he's in college now, it's all right. My sister didn't care about the word. She just kept going.

"It's not bullshit. I heard it."

"Watch your mouth, young lady," my dad said from the front seat.

"Oh, yeah? Where did you hear it?" my brother asked.

"I heard it on National Public Radio," my sister said.

"Oh, Jesus." My brother has a very full laugh.

"Well, I did."

My mom and dad looked like they were watching a tennis match through the windshield because they just kept shaking their heads. They didn't say anything. They didn't look back. I should point out, though, that my dad slowly started turning the Christmas music on the radio to a deafening volume.

"You are so full of shit. How would you know anything anyway? You haven't been to college. Kelly didn't go through anything like that."

"Oh, yeah... like she'd tell you."

"Yeah... she would. We don't keep secrets."

"Oh, you're such a sensitive new age guy."

I wanted them to stop fighting because I was starting to get upset, so I asked another question.

"Do you talk about books and issues?"

"Thank you for asking, Charlie. Yes. As a matter of fact we do. Kelly's favorite book just happens to be Walden by Henry David Thoreau. And Kelly just happened to say that the transcendental movement is a close parallel to this day and age."

"Oooo. Big words." My sister rolls her eyes better than anyone.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Was anyone talking to you? I happen to be telling my younger brother about my girlfriend. Kelly says that she hopes a good Democratic candidate will challenge George Bush. Kelly says that her hope is that the E.R.A. might finally pass if that happens. That's right. The E.R.A. that you always squawk about. Even cheerleaders think about those things. And they can actually have fun in the meantime."

My sister folded her arms in front of her and started whistling. My brother was too much on a roll to stop, though. I noticed that my dad's neck was getting very red.

"But there's another difference between you and her. You see... Kelly believes in women's rights so much that she would never let a guy hit her. I guess I can't say that about you."

I swear to God, we almost died. My dad hit those brakes so hard that my brother almost flew over the seat. When the smell from the tires started to fade, my dad took a deep breath and turned around. First, he turned to my brother. He didn't say a word. He just stared.

My brother looked at my dad like a deer caught by my cousins. After a long two seconds, my brother turned to my sister. I think he felt bad about it because of how the words came out.

"I'm sorry. Okay? I mean it. C'mon. Stop crying."

My sister was crying so hard, it was scary. Then, my dad turned to my sister. Again, he didn't say a word. He just snapped his fing
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