If Holden Caulfield Were Alive Today

I couldn’t wait to get out of Pencey. It was the third school I had flunked out of, and my Dad was going to be sore as hell. My Dad always was sore as hell. One time the weather app on his phone jammed and he was screaming and yelling for about a hundred hours. People scream forever like anyone cares what they are complaining about as much as they do. I don’t care.

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Source: wiki ommons

I remember this kid at my first school that was a real pain. Good old Carl — another kid that started taking pills in kindergarten like me. Except Carl really needed them to focus his parents told him. They were right. One time that kid was staring out the window for an entire math class and when Mr. Atticus called on him, I swear, that kid started talking about spelling words, like he totally forgot what class we were in.

I never found out what happened to Carl. In second grade there was other kid who lost his game in the playground. He was crying and crying. I could swear people a block away from our school could hear him wailing so much. Carl was the only kid who went over to help him find the game. Everyone just started, but no one else went. It makes me depressed to think about it. Carl went to another school a couple of years later and then I never heard anything about him.

I had pills too. My mom brought me to a pediatrician as soon as my kindergarten teacher said that I wasn’t listening. So they figured I had a problem and I started taking medicine. Those goddam pills didn’t really do much for me. I had to stop taking them every few weeks so it didn’t stunt my growth, and there was no difference in how well I listened when I was on them or off them, so my mother stopped giving them to me by the end of that year.

They made me see a therapist for a bunch of years after that. I didn’t know what the point was. They said that I had to learn to follow directions. They never asked me what I thought of the directions, of course, because they were lousy. I could do what they wanted when it made sense to. But I didn’t feel like it most of the time. My English teacher in fourth grade wanted us to memorize the goddam Declaration of Independence and we had to listen to every goddam kid get up and recite it from memory . When I got up there I kept my head down and couldn’t stop looking at the teacher’s shoes. You could tell they didn’t cost a lot of money. They also looked like he had worn them for about sixty years. There was a hole in the toe on his right foot. It made me depressed, just thinking about old Mr. Langhorn with those shoes. He kept telling me to start reciting the Declaration of Independence, like it was so important. When people think something is important to them, they just assume that it’s so goddam important to everyone else. But why should I have to memorize something that I could Google anytime I wanted. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

Asking questions. Asking questions is a normal part of life – but try to resist asking one after the other. Sometimes it is more helpful to comment on what your child has said and wait.

Pencey is a good school, everyone always says, but it was filled with a bunch of phonies. The day that old Principal Haas told me I had to leave I went back to my room and played Fortnite for hours. The dorm was empty. Everyone was in the lounge watching the football game on TV. I could hear them screaming from three floors up. None of them played football, and they didn’t give a damn about our school’s team until they got here at Pencey. I bet none of them watch a single game as soon as they graduate. Especially my roommate. He knows what he’s doing. He talks all week about the players he thinks are the best and what he thinks are the biggest problems with the other team each week, but I see him read all of that stuff from a blog. He even takes notes while he reads it so he can copy what it says.

I decided I couldn’t take it anymore, so I just packed up my things and left. On the train back to New York, I checked my Instagram and thought about posting some crap about Pencey, but remembered that my mother and father followed me, and I didn’t want them to know I had gotten kicked out.

I felt lonely, so I started looking through profiles of a few people from my dorm. One kid posted a picture of himself that made him look like a goddam model or something. He was a handsome kid and all. I mean, you couldn’t deny that. But there was something about the way his face looked, like he never had a goddam pimple in his life or something that looked off. What did he need to look more handsome for? You should have seen all of the comments on his post. Tons of girls telling him how hot he looked, like this conceited bastard needed anyone else to tell him how good looking he was. But you know he loved hearing it. That’s probably the only reason why he posted it after all.

There was another post from this girl who went to the school across from Pencey. They got out of break a little earlier so I could see that she was hanging out at the skating rink with these two other girls.

“I love you both so much!!” she wrote in the caption, and those two buffoons wrote comments saying the same thing. Funny thing was, they were always talking about how much they annoyed the hell out of each other. I was with one of them a few weeks back. She had a horrible face, but she was a great dancer. I mean, I really enjoyed dancing with her even though she kind of looked terrible. And all she could talk about was how much those other two girls in the picture were gossiping and being mean to each other. “Why do you always post about them then?” I asked her.

“Because they do it too, and I don’t want them to think I don’t like them” she told me.

“But you don’t like them!”

“I do. But they are pretty catty. I don’t really like that.”

“Then don’t hang out with them.”

She didn’t answer me. She just kept dancing, and then asked me for a selfie so she could post it on her profile. She wasn’t very good at conversation.

I decided to take a look at that post on her profile. She added some heart emojis. I don’t know what she was thinking. I wasn’t feeling sexy with her at all and I didn’t want to lead her on. I decided to untag myself from that picture. I didn’t want her to get the wrong idea.

Abide by the three rules of homework. Number one: "Eat the frog," says Ted Theodorou, a middle-school social studies teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia. That's shorthand for "Do the hardest thing first." Rule number two: Put away the phone. Homework time can't be totally tech-free (computers, alas, are often a necessary evil), but it can at least be free of text messages. Rule number three: As soon as assignments are finished, load up the backpack for tomorrow and place it by the door. This is a clear three-step process that kids can internalize, so there's less nagging from you. (Yes!)

I don’t have a real profile. I mean, I just have a Finsta. I can’t stand all of the phonies on their profiles with all of their pictures of themselves and all of the comments about how good they look and how they just went to these great places. It was depressing really.

I have 26 followers and I don’t post that much. Mostly I use my account so I can make comments on my sister, Pheobe’s profile. She is hysterical, old Pheobe. She put up some pictures of her play. She is in this Benedict Arnold costume and she looks so great. But she never posts any selfies. She hates them, that old Pheobe. And if she doesn’t want to do something, she won’t do it. Ever.

We were about to arrive in New York, but I wasn’t tired. It was late, but I decided to text Sally. She and I kind of have a “friends with benefits” thing, but I think she wants to be FBO. She’s really pretty, but sometimes I can’t stand listening to her talk. She doesn’t always have anything good to say, but she never stops talking. Some people love the sound of their own voice.

That reminds me of my therapist back from a few years ago. Boy did that guy like to hear himself talk. He kept asking me about my feelings and I was happy to tell him. But no matter what I said, he asked me to say it again.

“That’s important. But can you tell me more what you were feeling at that moment,” he would always say.

“I just did,” I’d tell him.

“I hear that you’re frustrated. That’s good. Why do you think you are frustrated?”

He never made any sense. There was this one time, however, that he told me something I really remember.

“Sometimes people can seem callous or unemotional. Do you know what that means?”

I did know. I read a lot of books and I am pretty smart. Especially in English class.

“Good,” he told me. “But I don’t think you are callous and unemotional. I think you care deeply about many people, especially children. I think you feel sad about your own childhood .”

Then he started asking me about Allie. I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but he seemed to really want to know about how he died and whether I talked to anyone about it. I told him that my mother felt pretty bad and I didn’t want to upset her by talking about it. I told him about breaking the windows in my garage. I also told him about Ali’s glove with the writing on it.

“Do you think you are angry now?” he asked me. “Have you ever heard of a ‘hostile attribution bias ?’”

He started talking a lot about automatic thoughts, about expecting people to disappoint me, and about anxiety over my relationships . It was really a bunch of garbage, I thought. That was the same day that he told me how much he cared about me. He asked me if I think anyone really loved me other than Allie, and then he told me he loved me.


I started sweating like mad when he said that. “What did you just say?”

“I care about you deeply, Holden. I want you to be happy. I want you to learn how to let yourself trust other people. I think you need to let yourself get closer to others.” He stood as soon as he said that. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or the clock behind me which had just buzzed because it was three o’clock. But as soon as he got up, I started to grab my phone and open the door.

“I have to go. See ya, doc,” I called out.

“Where are you going? Shouldn’t we review our homework for this week and talk about our plans for your next appointment?”

“Yeah, I’ll email you. I’ll send you an email right away. I gotta run now, though. Bye.”

I never did email him, however. I don’t know why. He was probably just getting up because our session ended. But I didn’t have the energy to start thinking about that now. Honestly, if he had forced me to stop and talk about next week, I probably would have. I’m pretty yellow. But I’m glad he didn’t.

By the time my train stopped, I didn’t feel like seeing Sally anymore so I decided to just go talk to Pheobe. She would probably be asleep, but I wanted to see her anyway. No matter how much I text with others or follow their profiles, I just feel lonely.