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The Wallflower in the Rye
July 2, 1992
This is not a letter I will send.
I’ve been here for almost two weeks and my doctor suggested I should “flesh out” my thoughts, though I didn’t completely understand why. So I decided to talk to you. Like my doctor said, It’ll be a way to keep my thoughts organized.
Yesterday, my doctor told me a kid my age had just checked in and that it would be good to make friends while I’m here. He seemed like the type of person who wouldn’t want any friends, but you know that they were actually really lonely. I didn’t think anyone should be forced to do something they wouldn’t want to do, but I decided to trust my doctor. I walked into the empty food court. Through brown tables and orange chairs I noticed him sitting alone reading a book. He wore a vivid red hunting hat that stood out from the achromatic walls. He had tired eyes and yellow teeth that kind of reminded me of my teeth when I did all that smoking. I wondered if he also smoked before coming here. Then I stopped wondering because I didn’t think he would want me to do that. I wouldn’t want someone to be wondering about my business either.
So I said, “Hey, I’m Charlie.”
He looked up like we was wondering if I was talking to him. “Hiya,” he murmured, “Holden Caulfield.”
I stood there for a moment and then decided to sit down. He put his book down. It was hard to describe but something about him changed right there, that second. He moved closer to me and asked if I wanted to get something to drink with him. His eyes had become brighter and his voice higher. I was pretty confused because there wasn’t supposed to be any alcohol around. I told him we weren’t supposed to drink while we were here, which made him curse under his breath and frown.
“This place is full of goddam phonies, there ain’t no cigarettes either.”
I really didn’t know what to say. He seemed upset. I wanted to tell him that once he was here, he wouldn’t see any of that. I remembered Sam and how she told me to say what I felt. But he seemed like the type of person you shouldn’t be firm with. There was something off about him.
God, I missed Sam. She was probably on her way to class. Or walking to her dorm with her new girlfriends. When she left I wished for her to be more happy, you’ve got to believe me. After everything with Craig happened, she wasn’t the same. I hope college is making her better, I really do.
We heard a voice coming from the door and saw a doctor with a really white coat. Holden sucked on his teeth and looked away, he really was upset.
After leaving Holden alone in the food court with his doctor, I decided to go back to my room, the one I was assigned here. It was a white room with a twin-sized bed with blue covers. It was like the one I had in my own room, which made me feel better about being here. Even though I decided I shouldn’t, I started wondering about Holden. And about his family. And about why he was here. And about how long he was going to stay here. I knew the reasons why I was here, but I wondered if he was upset because he was forced to be. I didn’t want to think about that. So I stopped.
Days later, I was on my way to the bathroom and then heard whispers coming from the room next to mine.
“Allie, don’t let me disappear. Don’t let me disappear, Allie. Allie.” The voice was soft but deep. After that, I couldn’t hear anything else. The voice felt lonely and shaky. Before coming here, whenever I saw someone be sad, I would feel sad as well. When I told my psychiatrist about this she told me I was being empathic. She told me it was good to feel empathetic towards people, but it was bad to feel it too much. I didn’t understand why is bad to feel something “too much” or what it meant when you did, but I tried not to do it.
When I returned from the bathroom, the door next to mine was open. And Holden was standing there.
And he was crying.
I didn’t know what to do other than stand there. You have to believe I wanted to ask him what was wrong, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why. Something about his face made me think of Sam and Patrick when they were sad or lonely. It scared me.
He raised his head and noticed I was there staring at him. I could hear him curse, “Goddam,” sharply, and he returned to his room.
I wish I had said something.
I didn’t talk to Holden much after that. Our paths never seemed to cross. Every time I saw him he was talking to another patient who appeared very uncomfortable. When he would start getting excited about something and speak in a louder voice, or when he “horsed around,” like he likes to say, every time they made the same face. That made me very angry; everyone here wants to think that they are the least insane person. They think that by making everyone else the craziest person it will mean they are less crazy. I didn’t get it and I felt sorry for Holden. It was like he wasn’t trying to be mouthy on purpose. Like I couldn’t help to ask “why” on every math problem, he couldn’t help to talkback. He got into fights often at the cafeteria, sometimes it was because some guy was a, “phony,” or a “goddam son of a b****.” (I know it’s weird for me to cuss but I thought I should write it out for you to get what I mean.) Other times it was because of him lying all the time. People don’t really like it when you lie to them and then they find out it’s not true.
The fights never appeared to affect him, but there was this one fight. The guy screamed very loudly at Holden. I couldn’t get in between. I didn’t like it when I blacked out and couldn’t remember what happened, just like the fight with Patrick and Brad.
“Allie, Allie, don’t let me disappear! Don’t let me disappear!” they mocked him. I remember the lonely voice inside of Holden’s room. This time Holden didn’t say anything back. I didn’t understand why.
The day after that, I heard my doctor outside my room talking to another doctor. It seemed Holden had tied some sheets together and hanged himself in his room. When my doctor came in, she asked me why I was crying. Weirdly enough I hadn’t realized I was. My blue bed sheets that reminded me of the ones back home, became cold. I became really scared. The air was running out of my lungs and my breaths were sharp. I kept thinking that maybe if I had said something last night or gotten in between the fights he wouldn’t be dead right now. I asked my doctor about this, if I could have said or done something. And she said something I will never forget.
“We can’t save everyone, Charlie.”
I stood there, quiet. My doctor gave me a small hug and told me it was okay.
I still think about Holden often. I didn’t get to know him much, but something about him made me wish I had. I also think about what my doctor said. I wondered if it was true, if there were people we just couldn’t save. What do you think?
New City, New York
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