June 22, 1992
Sam is incredibly busy preparing for school, but Charlie is able to hang out with her and the others every night. When they are all together, they sit in a circle and tell stories - "Remember the show where Patrick did this...or remember when Bob did this...or Charlie..or Mary Elizabeth...or Alice...or Sam..."(466). On the night before Sam leaves, they continue to do this, and after a bit, Mary Elizabeth, Bob, and Alice leave. Patrick, Sam, and Charlie remain, telling stories about when they first met. Silently, Charlie remembers a time when they were all walking and talking, with Charlie in the middle. As Charlie writes, this was the "first time that I belonged somewhere" (468). Patrick goes out of the room at one point, leaving Charlie and Sam alone. Charlie begins to help her pack up a few last things. After packing for awhile, Sam finally asks Charlie, "Why didn't you ask me out when the whole Craig thing happened" (469)? Charlie sits there silently, not knowing what to say, but Sam keeps pressing him.
Charlie tells her that he wanted her to be happy more than anything else, and that this is how he realized that he really loved her. She quietly responds, "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" (471). The two continue to talk about why Charlie was afraid to make a move with Sam, and about why he is afraid to take initiative in life. Sam stresses that Charlie needs to be honest above all else - honest with himself and honest with the people around him.
After they talk, Charlie kisses Sam, and they continue to kiss and move towards having sex. When Sam puts her hand down Charlie's pants, he stops her. It's not that Charlie dislikes the sensation, but something is wrong - something that Charlie can't articulate. Sam notices that Charlie is now "white as a sheet," so she has him lie down on the couch with a cold wash cloth. As he's about to fall asleep, Charlie begins talking to himself, and he remembers a time when he was watching television with his Aunt Helen. Aunt Helen had molested Charlie when he was a child.
Suddenly, Charlie wakes up, and then he eats breakfast with Sam, Patrick, and their parents. Sam is prepared to leave, and she says her goodbyes to everyone as they come over. She hugs Charlie last. Charlie drives home, but his memory starts to fade. He has difficulty sensing or processing the things going on around him. Charlie begins to break down, and his thoughts move from one thing to another. He feels as if he has no one to talk to, and he is beginning to believe that what happened in his dream last night is actually true. As Charlie's writing accelerates and becomes even more frantic, he quickly ends the letter, thanking the reader for everything the reader has done for him simply by receiving his letters.
August 23, 1992 (Epilogue)
After Charlie mails the last letter, he loses his ability to recall anything until he wakes up at a doctor's office. He has been in the hospital for two months, and for the first week he was there, he didn't speak to or acknowledge anyone who came to visit him. He was sent to the hospital after his parents found him sitting naked on the couch watching television, without the television on.
While Charlie is in the hospital, he realizes that everything he dreamt about his Aunt Helen is true and that it happened every Saturday when they watched television. Working through these things is very difficult, but Charlie's visitors help a lot. His family and Patrick visit frequently, and Patrick brings letters from Sam. These are the things that help Charlie the most. Ultimately, Charlie doesn't want to blame his Aunt Helen for the way he is - he realizes that he has agency and power, and that while his background factors into who he is, he still has control over his own life.
Even if others have had it better or worse than Charlie, he still respects and acknowledges their lives. He knows that it's just different, and while it's sometimes good to put things in perspective, it's still valid to have your own concerns. Charlie thinks that he finally understands what it means to be present and live in the moment: to participate. Later that summer, he joins Sam and Patrick in the truck and stands in the back as they drive through the tunnel. He is able to feel infinite again. The letter closes on the evening before Charlie starts his sophomore year, and he informs the reader that this may be his last chance to write because he might be too busy. He writes, "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" (503).
Sam challenges Charlie to truly participate. It's not enough to just have friends or be there: Charlie needs to be active and really engage his friends. He needs to give his opinions, speak up, and challenge others. It's an entirely different level of participation than what Bill has asked of Charlie, but it shows Charlie's development. Bill's request was a notable challenge at that point in Charlie's high school career, but now Sam is asking more of Charlie because he can handle more.
Charlie finally comes to the discovery of what happened to him as a child, and suddenly the many questions that his psychiatrist asked him seem to make more sense. Sexual perversion has been a perpetual theme throughout Charlie's letters, and a surprisingly high number of people around Charlie have experienced sexual assault. While earlier in the novel Charlie would have used this commonality of experience to lessen the severity of his own emotions, this time he embraces his own feelings. He accepts that while perspective is important, it is also important to appreciate your own background regardless of what other people have been through.
In light of the many people around Charlie who have been sexually abused, it is surprising that none of these events triggered Charlie to think about what happened to him. He has witnessed a rape and his sister's abusive relationship, and has heard about Aunt Helen's and Sam's cases of sexual abuse, yet these events have not caused Charlie to think about the times when Aunt Helen abused him.
Instead, it is a moment of love and joy that provokes Charlie's realization. When Sam, the love of his life so far, tries to have sex with him, he has to stop her and he enters into a daze. This trigger moment reflects the love that Charlie felt for Aunt Helen, and it sheds light on how he has repressed his memories of this abuse. He loved and cared for Aunt Helen so dearly that he had pushed those bad memories deep inside of him, and they were only brought out when he was intimate again with someone that he loved. Perhaps this is why it was so hard for Charlie to accept what Aunt Helen had done - because he loved her so dearly.
After nearly two months in the hospital processing all of these emotions, Charlie has made some progress. He has regained some agency and power over his life and realizes that he does not need to be defined by his past. He can still be an active participant in his life and chart his own path. Shedding a bright light of hope on his future, Charlie writes that this might be his last letter. He wants to participate more, and that means less time writing. His last sentence to the reader reflects growth and maturity, and it gives the reader hope that Charlie will one day be okay.