We didn’t do anything other than kiss. And we didn’t even do that for very long. After a while, his eyes lost the glazey numb look from the wine or the coffee or the fact that he had stayed up the night before. Then, he started crying. Then, he started talking about Brad.
And I just let him. Because that’s what friends are for.
This quotation occurs in Part 4, after Brad has been sent to rehab and is no longer seeing Patrick. Brad’s football friends beat up Patrick when Patrick tries to confront Brad in the cafeteria, and Charlie jumps in the middle of the fight to defend Patrick. Patrick starts spending a great deal of time with Charlie, and Charlie uses his skills as a listener and observer to provide Patrick acceptance and emotional support. But sometimes, Charlie’s skills as a wallflower prevent him from speaking up, even when it might be better for both parties if he could stand up for himself. Rather than pulling away from Patrick’s advances, Charlie passively lets Patrick kiss him, even though he knows that the kiss is just because Patrick is missing Brad. Patrick leans on Charlie for sympathy, and Charlie recognizes that Patrick is a confused teenager.
However, Charlie does not recognize that he does not have to remain a passive wallflower in every situation in order to maintain his capacities for understanding and empathy. Charlie thinks that being a good friend means sacrificing his own emotions and desires. Patrick does not try to rape Charlie, and he does not go beyond a kiss. Indeed, Patrick is the one who eventually pulls away. When Patrick is lonely, he leans on Charlie and relies on him for support. But this support is not solely one-sided. In the beginning of the novel, Patrick allowed Charlie to integrate into his friend group, which provided Charlie with people he could trust and a space in which he felt like he could be himself. Even though Patrick takes some advantage of Charlie’s passivity when Patrick is lonely, Patrick never physically or sexually abuses Charlie, and Patrick is also careful to make Charlie feel special without making him feel coerced.