Authors: Stephen Chbosky
Tags: #Social Issues, #Emotions & Feelings, #Epistolary fiction, #High school students, #Juvenile Fiction, #Bildungsromans, #Diary novels, #Coming of Age, #Homosexuality, #Epistolary novels, #Friendship, #School & Education, #Death & Dying, #Adolescence
Then, he walked up, patted my shoulder, and said, "This is our little secret, okay, champ?"
"Okay," I said.
And Dad picked me up with the arm that wasn't holding the sandwich, and carried me to the room that had the television, and put me on his lap for the rest of the television episode. At the end of the episode, he picked me up, turned off the TV, and turned around.
And my dad declared, "That was a great series."
And my mom said, "The best."
And my sister asked, "How long was it on the air?"
And my brother replied, "Nine years, stupid."
And my sister responded, "You ... stupid."
And my dad said, "Stop it, right now."
And my mom said, "Listen to your father."
And my brother said nothing.
And my sister said nothing.
And years later I found out my brother was wrong.
I went to the library to look up the figures, and I found out that the episode we watched is the highest watched anything of television history, which I find amazing because it felt like just the five of us.
You know ... a lot of kids at school hate their parents. Some of them got hit. And some of them got caught in the middle of wrong lives. Some of them were trophies for their parents to show the neighbors like ribbons or gold stars. And some of them just wanted to drink in peace.
For me personally, as much as I don't understand my mom and dad and as much as I feel sorry for both of them sometimes, I can't help but love them very much. My mom drives to visit the cemetery of people she loves. My dad cried during
and trusted me to keep his secret, and let me sit on his lap, and called me "champ."
Incidentally, I only have one cavity, and as much as my dentist asks me to, I just can't bring myself to floss.
October 6, 1991 Dear friend,
I feel very ashamed. I went to the high school football game the other day, and I don't know exactly why. In middle school, Michael and I would go to the games sometimes even though neither of us were popular enough to go. It was just a place to go on Fridays when we didn't want to watch television.
Sometimes, we would see Susan there, and she and Michael would hold hands.
But this time, I went alone because Michael is gone, and Susan hangs around different boys now, and Bridget is still crazy, and Carl's mom sent him to a Catholic school, and Dave with the awkward glasses moved away. I was just kind of watching people, seeing who was in love and who was just hanging around, and I saw that kid I told you about. Remember Nothing? Nothing was there at the football game, and he was one of the few people who was not an adult that was actually watching the game. I mean really watching the game. He would yell things out.
"Can'mon, Brad!" That's the name of our quarterback.
Now, normally I am very shy, but Nothing seemed like the kind of guy you could just walk up to at a football game even though you were three years younger and not popular.
"Hey, you're in my shop class!" He's a very friendly person.
"I'm Charlie." I said, not too shy.
"And I'm Patrick. And this is Sam." He pointed to a very pretty girl next to him. And she waved to me.
"Hey, Charlie." Sam had a very nice smile.
They both told me to have a seat, and they both seemed to mean it, so I took a seat. I listened to Nothing yell at the field. And I listened to his play-by-play analysis. And I figured out that this was a kid who knew football very well. He actually knew football as well as my brother. Maybe I should call Nothing "Patrick" from now on since that is how he introduced himself, and that is what Sam calls him.
Incidentally, Sam has brown hair and very very pretty green eyes. The kind of green that doesn't make a big deal about itself. I would have told you that sooner, but under the stadium lights, everything looked kind of washed out. It wasn't until we went to the Big Boy, and Sam and Patrick started to chain-smoke that I got a good look at her. The nice thing about the Big Boy was the fact that Patrick and Sam didn't just throw around inside jokes and make me struggle to keep up. Not at all. They asked me questions.
"How old are you, Charlie?"
"What do you want to do when you grow up?"
"I don't know just yet."
"What's your favorite band?"
"I think maybe the Smiths because I love their song Àsleep,' but I'm really not sure one way or the other because I don't know any other songs by them too well."
"What's your favorite movie?"
"I don't know really. They're all the same to me."
"How about your favorite book?"
This Side of Paradise
by From. Scott Fitzgerald."
"Because it was the last one I read."
This made them laugh because they knew I meant it honest, not show-off. Then they told me their favorites, and we sat quiet. I ate the pumpkin pie because the lady said it was in season, and Patrick and Sam smoked more cigarettes.
I looked at them, and they looked really happy together. A good kind of happy. And even though I thought Sam was very pretty and nice, and she was the first girl I ever wanted to ask on a date someday when I can drive, I did not mind that she had a boyfriend, especially if he was a good guy like Patrick.
"How long have you been `going out'?" I asked.
Then, they started laughing. Really laughing hard.
"What's so funny?" I said.
"We're brother and sister," Patrick said, still laughing.
"But you don't look alike," I said.
That's when Sam explained that they were actually stepsister and stepbrother since Patrick's dad married Sam's mom. I was very happy to know that because I would really like to ask Sam on a date someday. I really would. She is so nice.
I feel ashamed, though, because that night, I had a weird dream. I was with Sam. And we were both naked. And her legs were spread over the sides of the couch. And I woke up. And I had never felt that good in my life. But I also felt bad because I saw her naked without her permission. I think that I should tell Sam about this, and I really hope it does not prevent us from maybe making up inside jokes of our own. It would be very nice to have a friend again. I would like that even more than a date.
October 14, 1991 Dear friend,
Do you know what "masturbation" is? I think you probably do because you are older than me. But just in case, I will tell you. Masturbation is when you rub your genitals until you have an orgasm. Wow!
I thought that in those movies and television shows when they talk about having a coffee break that they should have a masturbation break. But then again, I think this would decrease productivity.
I'm only being cute here. I don't really mean it. I just wanted to make you smile. I meant the "wow"
I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she did? She laughed. Not a mean laugh, either. A really nice, warm laugh.
She said that she thought I was being cute. And she said it was okay that I had a dream about her. And I stopped crying. Sam then asked me if I thought she was pretty, and I told her I thought she was "lovely."
Sam then looked me right in the eye.
"You know you're too young for me, Charlie? You do know that?"
"Yes, I do."
"I don't want you to waste your time thinking about me that way."
"I won't. It was just a dream."
Sam then gave me a hug, and it was strange because my family doesn't hug a lot except my Aunt Helen. But after a few moments, I could smell Sam's perfume, and I could feel her body against me. And I stepped back.
"Sam, I'm thinking about you that way."
She just looked at me and shook her head. Then, she put her arm around my shoulder and walked me down the hallway. We met Patrick outside because they didn't like to go to class sometimes. They preferred to smoke.
"Charlie has a Charlie-esque crush on me, Patrick."
"He does, huh?"
"I'm trying not to," I offered, which just made them laugh.
Patrick then asked Sam to leave, which she did, and he explained some things to me, so I would know how to be around other girls and not waste my time thinking about Sam that way.
"Charlie, has anyone told you how it works?"
"I don't think so."
"Well, there are rules you follow here not because you want to, but because you have to. You get it?"
"I guess so."
"Okay. You take girls, for example. They're copying their moms and magazines and everything to know how to act around guys."
I thought about the moms and the magazines and the everythings, and the thought made me nervous, especially if it includes TV.
"I mean it's not like in the movies where girls like assholes or anything like that. It's not that easy. They just like somebody that can give them a purpose."
"Right. You know? Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act.
Like a mom. What would a mom do if she couldn't fuss over you and make you clean your room? And what would you do without her fussing and making you do it? Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knows this. And it gives her a sense of purpose. You get it?"
"Yeah," I said even though I didn't. But I got it enough to say "Yeah" and not be lying, though.
"The thing is some girls think they can actually change guys. And what's funny is that if they actually did change them, they'd get bored. They'd have no challenge left. You just have to give girls some time to think of a new way of doing things, that's all. Some of them will figure it out here. Some later. Some never. I wouldn't worry about it too much."
But I guess I did worry about it. I've been worrying about it ever since he told me. I look at people holding hands in the hallways, and I try to think about how it all works. At the school dances, I sit in the background, and I tap my toe, and I wonder how many couples will dance to "their song." In the hallways, I see the girls wearing the guys' jackets, and I think about the idea of property. And I wonder if anyone is really happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are.
Bill looked at me looking at people, and after class, he asked me what I was thinking about, and I told him. He listened, and he nodded and made "affirmation" sounds. When I had finished, his face changed into a "serious talk" face.
"Do you always think this much, Charlie?"
"Is that bad?" I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
"Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life."
"Is that bad?"
"I think I participate, though. Don't you think I am?"
"Well, are you dancing at these dances?"
"I'm not a very good dancer."
"Are you going on dates?"
"Well, I don't have a car, and even if I did, I can't drive because I'm fifteen, and anyway, I haven't met a girl I like except for Sam, but I am too young for her, and she would always have to drive, which I don't think is fair."
Bill smiled and continued asking me questions. Slowly, he got to "problems at home." And I told him about the boy who makes mix tapes hitting my sister because my sister only told me not to tell mom or dad about it, so I figured I could tell Bill. He got this very serious look on his face after I told him, and he said something to me I don't think I will forget this semester or ever.
"Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve."
I just stood there, quiet. Bill patted my shoulder and gave me a new book to read. He told me everything was going to be okay.
I usually walk home from school because it makes me feel like I've earned it. What I mean is that I want to be able to tell my kids that I walked to school like my grandparents did in the "old days." It's odd that I'm planning this considering I've never had a date, but I guess that makes sense. It usually takes me an extra hour or so to walk as opposed to taking the bus, but it's worth it when the weather is nice and cool like it was today.
When I finally got home, my sister was sitting on a chair. My mom and my dad were standing in front of her. And I knew that Bill had called home and told them. And I felt terrible. It was all my fault.
My sister was crying. My mom was very very quiet. My dad did all the talking. He said that my sister was not allowed to see the boy who hit her anymore, and he was going to have a talk with the boy's parents tonight. My sister then said that it was all her fault, that she was provoking him, but my dad said it was no excuse.
"But I love him!" I had never seen my sister cry that much.
"No, you don't."
"I hate you!"
"No, you don't." My dad can be very calm sometimes.
"He's my whole world."
"Don't ever say that about anyone again. Not even me." That was my mom.
My mom chooses her battles carefully, and I can tell you one thing about my family. When my mom does say something, she always gets her way. And this time was no exception. My sister stopped crying immediately.
After that, my dad gave my sister a rare kiss on the forehead. Then, he left the house, got in his Oldsmobile, and drove away. I thought he probably was going to talk to the boy's parents. And I felt very sorry for them. `from
parents, I mean. Because my dad doesn't lose fights. He just doesn't.
My mom then went into the kitchen to make my sister's favorite thing to eat, and my sister looked at 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.
By the way, I figure you are probably curious about my dad. Did he hit us when we were kids or now even? I just thought you might be curious because Bill was, after I told him about that boy and my sister.