Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.


I have finished To Kill a Mockingbird. It is now my favorite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book.

And I could see this boy doing his homework and thinking about my sister naked. And I could see them holding hands at football games that they do not watch. And I could see this boy throwing up in the bushes at a party house. And I could see my sister putting up with it.
And I felt very bad for both of them.

Sam has brown hair and very very pretty green eyes. The kind of green that doesn’t make a big deal about itself.

"We accept the love we think we deserve."

“He’s my whole world.”
“Don’t ever say that about anyone again. Not even me.”

"I hate you."
My sister said it different than she said it to my dad. She meant it with me. She really did.
"I love you," was all I could say in return.
"You're a freak, you know that? You've always been a freak. Everyone says so. They always have."
"I'm trying not to be."

Then I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.

“Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.”

I had to stop watching at that point because I started to feel sick, but it kept going on, and they kept doing other things, and she kept saying “no.” Even when I covered my ears, I could still hear her say that.

Then, Patrick pointed at me, and said something to Bob.
"He's something, isn't he?"
Bob nodded his head. Patrick then said something I don't think I'll ever forget.
"He's a wallflower."
And Bob really nodded his head. And the whole room nodded their head. And I started to feel nervous in the Bob way, but Patrick didn't let me get too nervous. He sat down next to me.
"You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand."


I didn't know that other people thought things about me. I didn't know that they looked. I was sitting on the floor of a basement of my first real party between Sam and Patrick, and I remembered that Sam introduced me as her friend to Bob. And I remembered that Patrick had done the same for Brad. And I started to cry. And nobody in that room looked at me weird for doing it. And then I really started to cry.
Bob raised his drink and asked everyone to do the same.
"To Charlie."
And the whole group said, "To Charlie."

Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing.
And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.



It's like he would take a photograph of Sam, and the photograph would be beautiful. And he would think that the reason the photograph was beautiful was because of how he took it. If I took it, I would know that the only reason it's beautiful is because of Sam.

Maybe these are my glory days and I’m not even realizing it because they don’t involve a ball.

When I was done reading the poem, everyone was quiet. A very sad quiet. But the amazing thing was that it wasn't a bad sad at all. It was just something that made everyone look around at each other and know that they were there. Sam and Patrick looked at me. And I looked at them. And I think they knew. Not anything specific really. They just knew. And I think that's all you can ever ask from a friend.

I used to listen to it all the time when I was little and thinking about grown-up things. I would go to my bedroom window and stare at my reflection in the glass and the trees behind it and just listen to the song for hours. I decided then that when I met someone I thought was as beautiful as the song, I should give it to that person. And I didn’t mean beautiful on the outside. I meant beautiful in all ways.

And I closed my eyes because I wanted to know nothing but her arms.

It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.


Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines
he wrote a poem
And he called it "Chops"
because that was the name of his dog
And that's what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A
and a gold star
And his mother hung it on the kitchen door
and read it to his aunts
That was the year Father Tracy
took all the kids to the zoo
And he let them sing on the bus
And his little sister was born
with tiny toenails and no hair
And his mother and father kissed a lot
And the girl around the corner sent him a
Valentine signed with a row of X's
and he had to ask his father what the X's meant
And his father always tucked him in bed at night
And was always there to do it

Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines
he wrote a poem
And he called it "Autumn"
because that was the name of the season
And that's what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A
and asked him to write more clearly
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because of its new paint
And the kids told him
that Father Tracy smoked cigars
And left butts on the pews
And sometimes they would burn holes
That was the year his sister got glasses
with thick lenses and black frames
And the girl around the corner laughed
when he asked her to go see Santa Claus
And the kids told him why
his mother and father kissed a lot
And his father never tucked him in bed at night
And his father got mad
when he cried for him to do it.

Once on a paper torn from his notebook
he wrote a poem
And he called it "Innocence: A Question"
because that was the question about his girl
And that's what it was all about
And his professor gave him an A
and a strange steady look
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because he never showed her
That was the year that Father Tracy died
And he forgot how the end
of the Apostle's Creed went
And he caught his sister
making out on the back porch
And his mother and father never kissed
or even talked
And the girl around the corner
wore too much makeup
That made him cough when he kissed her
but he kissed her anyway
because that was the thing to do
And at three a.m. he tucked himself into bed
his father snoring soundly

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.

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.


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 just 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.

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.

My Aunt Helen was definitely killed instantly. In other words, there was no pain. There was no pain anymore.

I finished the book and then started immediately reading it again. Anything to not feel like crying. Because I made the promise to Aunt Helen. And because I don't want to start thinking again. Not like I have this last week. I can't think again. Not ever again.

I don't know if you've ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That's why I'm trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning. If this gets any worse, I might have to go back to the doctor. It's getting that bad again.

Sometimes, i look outside, and i think that a lot of other people have seen this snow before. Just like i think that a lot of other people have read those books before. And listened to those songs.
I wonder how they feel tonight.

But the thing is that I can hear Sam and Craig having sex, and for the first time in my life, I understand the end of that poem.
And I never wanted to. You have to believe me.

I feel great! I really mean it. I have to remember this for the next time I'm having a terrible week. Have you ever done that? You feel really bad, and then it goes away, and you don't know why. I try to remind myself when I feel great like this that there will be another terrible week coming someday, so I should store up as many great details as I can, so during the next terrible week, I can remember those details and believe that I'll feel great again. It doesn't work a lot, but I think it's very important to try.


I just laid around in my bed, looking at the ceiling, and i smiled because it was a nice kind of quiet.

And when she started becoming a “young lady,” and no one was allowed to look at her because she thought she was fat. And how she really wasn’t fat. And how she was actually very pretty. And how different her face looked when she realized boys thought she was pretty. And how different her face looked the first time she really liked a boy who was not on a poster on her wall. And how her face looked when she realized she was in love with that boy. And then i wondered how her face would look when she came out from behind those doors.

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.


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.

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.

It’s much easier not to know things sometimes. And to have french fries with your mom be enough.

Because things change. And friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody.


After that, whenever I saw him around anywhere, he didn't look like he was there. He looked like he was someplace else. And I think I knew that because that's how people used to say I was. Maybe they still do. I'm not sure.

I almost didn't get an A in math, but then Mr. Calo told me to stop asking "why?" all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. I get perfect scores on all my tests. I just wish I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea.

"I would die for you. But I won't live for you."

All I hope is that my sister feels beautiful, and her new guy makes her feel beautiful.

I never once thought that it would mean Sam might start liking me. All I cared about was the fact that Sam got really hurt. And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn’t matter.


"Charlie, do you know how smart you are?"
I just shook my head no again. He was talking for real. It was strange.
"Charlie, you're one of the most gifted people I've ever known. And I don't mean in terms of my other students. I mean in terms of anyone I've ever met.

"Charlie. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I just want you to know that you're very special ... and the only reason I'm telling you is that I don't know if anyone else ever has."

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.


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 to clock to stop. And just be there for a long time.

She was sad, though. But it was a hopeful kind of sad. The kind of sad that just takes time.

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.

"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."

“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.”

“So why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn't really even know me?"

I'm never 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.”

I loved Sam. And we were together. And I was ruining it. Just ruining it. Just terrible. I felt so terrible.

“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.

Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And she was doing what Sam was doing.

But it still felt like a good-bye 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 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.

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.

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.

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.


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 would always be someone to blame.

I’m not the way I am because of what I dreamt or remembered about my anut 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.

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.

Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Like Sam sad. Because it's okay to feel things. And be who you are about them.

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.


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.

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,
Charlie

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