Letters to No One
by Justin Shaffer

August 20, 2007

Dear friend,
This is the first letter that I am writing to you. "You" do not exist, of course, but writing these letters will force me to either be honest about the things that I will write about or lie about them, and I am no liar. I got this idea from a book that I read this summer called The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which a boy named Charlie writes anonymous letters to a mystery recipient. I don't have someone to whom I could send these letters that I could trust enough to keep their contents a secret, however, so this will have to do for me.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with these letters after I write them, really. Honestly, it's not an issue that I've given very much thought. Perhaps I'll keep them in a folder on my bookcase, so that I can revisit them in five or ten or twenty years and laugh at how stupid and naïve I was back then, or now, or however you want to think about it. Or maybe I'll burn them as soon as I get finished writing them, but that doesn't really sound like something that I would do. I do know, though, that nobody can ever find out about these letters, or my life as I know it will officially be over. I just wish that I knew somebody I could trust with this intimate information, but I don't. Maybe by the time I'm finished writing the letters I will have a person like that in my life, but I doubt it. I think that I'll keep them just in case, though.

The reason that I'm writing to you is because I start the eleventh grade – that's my junior year in high school – in two days, and my sophomore year was a total train wreck. I won't bore you with too many details, but during the summer between by freshman year and last year, I came to the realization that I was gay. I mean, I think I knew before then, especially since I had had a huge crush on Ryan Holt ever since sixth grade, but that was when I finally gave in and stopped fighting the fact. But even though I had finally admitted to myself that I was attracted to other boys and only to other boys, I was no where near ready to tell my friends at school, much less my family.

So I was "in the closet" for a few months, but let me tell you, keeping a secret as big as that one puts quite a load on your back. It feels like you're living a lie, even though you haven't told any. You feel like a big fat phony and a fraud. I decided that it was too much to bear, so one day before we were out of school for Winter Break, I told my best friend Allison that I was gay. She took it rather well, or so I thought, and we talked about it for hours on the phone that night. I told her about my crush on Ryan and how nobody but her and I knew about any of it. I made her swear to secrecy; she crossed her heart and swore on her mother's life...we even pinky swore, I think, which is totally a little kid thing to do, but I had to be sure that she would not tell anybody my secret unless I told her that she could.

Apparently crossing your heart and swearing on your mother's life and pinking swearing doesn't mean very much to people anymore. Within a month, about half the school had found out my secret, including Ryan Holt, who got a few of his football buddies together and beat the living hell out of me on my way home from school one snowy day in January. I never even stood a chance. They beat me so bad that I had to stay in the hospital for several days, and every day the school principal and guidance councilor would come visit me to deliver my schoolwork, as well as try to persuade me to give up the names of the boys who had attacked me. I never did tell them, because I didn't want Ryan and his friends to potentially go to jail for what they did. I know it sounds unfair that their actions will go unpunished, but it was very important to me that nobody found out what happened.

Besides, I know that Ryan is sorry for what he did. He told me so. I'll never forget what he said to me right before he delivered one last kick that broke two of my ribs. He said, "I'm sorry, but I have to do this. I have a reputation to protect." And he was right, he did.

I was out of school for a couple of weeks after the attack, and when I returned to classes, I confronted Allison about telling everybody that I was gay, even after she promised profusely that she would never do so. She told me that it wasn't her that told; it must have been somebody else. But nobody else knew. My best friend looked me right in the face and lied to me; she saw the bruises and scars that resulted from her betrayal, and she couldn't even own up to her mistake. That, I think, was the thing that hurt the most out of it all. The ribs would heal, but our friendship was effectively burned to the ground with that lie. I haven't spoken to Allison since, and to this day she doesn't know that she was the only person that I've ever told about my sexuality.

That's right, my parents somehow never found out, even after the beating. As far as they know, it was just a senseless random act of violence. You probably think it's cowardly to keep lying to them, but you don't know my parents. They aren't exactly the most tolerant people in the world, and I'm scared to death of how they're going to react when they find out. Will they kick me out of the house? Will they prohibit me from ever dating another guy? Will they try to change me? I just don't know, and I'm not ready to find out, especially after what happened to me at school. I'll tell them in my own time, whenever that may be. I hope you won't judge me too harshly for this decision. It wasn't an easy one to make.

Anyway, after ending my relationship with Allison, the second half of last year was very lonely and depressing for me. Nobody wanted to associate with the "gay kid", so nobody did. Granted, I'd never had that many friends to begin with, but I'd always had Allison, and at least everybody else was generally friendly toward me. But now nobody even so much as said "hi" to me when they passed me in the hallway. Nobody asked me how my ribs were feeling. Nobody even asked me for the answers to the assigned homework. The only people I spoke to at school from January until May were my teachers, and that was only when they called on me in class or I had a question about an assignment.

I tried not to let the loneliness and negligence get the best of me, but as I'm sure you can imagine, it was very difficult not to. As I became more and more isolated from everybody in my life outside of my family, I began to get depressed and my grades began to drop. I failed two classes my last quarter – luckily neither of them were necessary to pass the tenth grade – and my parents decided as soon as the school year was over that they were sending me to a private school this year. They want me to get out of what they perceive to be a violent and counter-productive environment and into a school in which I can receive more individualized attention.

Honestly, I'm excited about the opportunity to start over. I get to meet new people, get away from the stigma that surrounded me at school last year, and start my life over again. That's part of why I decided to start writing these letters; in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, we can see a definite change in Charlie from the beginning of his freshman year to the end, and I want to see what kind of change I'll see in myself as a result of this fresh start.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even meet a cute boy at my new school and live happily ever after. It's all very exciting, don't you think?

Sincerely yours,