I sat next to her once in the bus from Agerstown and we sort of struck up a conversation.”She wasn’t exactly amazing to look at, but she was a nice enough girl. Someone who you could have intelligent conversation with, one of the very few people I met during my time at Pencey who wasn’t a phony. You could tell she was a pretty nervous kid though, she barely made eye contact when she spoke to you, and was always twiddling her fingers in that uncomfortable sort of way. Anyway, she was sat next to me on the bus, and I figured I should probably introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Holden.” She smiled a shy sort of smile and said,
“Hi, I’m Selma,” then she held out her hand for me to shake. That killed me. Shaking hands is just about the most phony thing a person can do. But I shook it anyway, just to be polite and all.
“Selma Thurman, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” she said with another shy smile. In a funny way, she kind of reminded me of Jane. She had that same distinctive smile that would light up any room, a genuine smile. Not one of those phony ones. You can always tell when someone is genuine. “You go to Pencey right?” she asked
“Then you know my father.” Boy! did I know her father. He damn near would have killed me if he had the chance. He hated my guts. He’d called my parents on several occasions expressing his ‘concerns’ about my progress and my lack of motivation at school. You could just tell he hated me. He was one of those hot-shots who thought they were better than everyone else. Even though he was the most phony slob you’d ever meet.
“Yeah I know him” I didn’t feel like talking about school.. or her father. So I got out a cigarette “Care for a cigarette?” I asked.
“I don’t smoke.” she said “Looking forward to next term?”
“Oh, I’m not coming back next term.” She looked confused. “You see, my father is terribly ill. He has this tiny tumor in his brain.” I didn’t feel like telling her I got kicked out, when you tell people something like that. They begin to think of you differently.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” she said, but not in a phony way. She really was sorry.
“Oh, it’s not too bad. Just goddam annoying as hell that’s all. He blacks out sometimes, you never know when its going to happen. He can’t drive anymore, just in case it happens while driving.” She looked so worried, the poor kid.
“Oh! That seems terrible!” She put her hand up to her mouth and everything. I was beginning to regret what I had said, but it was too late now.
“He’ll be alright and all, we’ll look after him. Me and my Mom, and Phoebe of course. Thats why I wont be here next term. He needs full-time care so I need to be at a school closer to home, just incase something goes wrong” I wanted to change the subject, I needed to stop lying. Once I start, I could go on for hours. “Phoebe’s my little sister by the way. She’s probably a couple years younger than you, she’s a good kid. You got any brothers or sisters?” I was eager to switch the focus of the conversation onto her. If I wasn’t speaking as much, I couldn’t lie as much.
“Oh, no. I’m an only child. But you know.. I’ve always liked the idea of having brothers and sisters. It just gets so lonely sometimes.” God that depressed me. I suddenly started missing Phoebe. I thought I better get her something for when I got home.
We didn’t talk too much after that. She started reading this magazine she had with her, and I looked out of the window for a while. I got off a couple stops before I should have. I wasn’t feeling too good, and the goddamn bus jerking around wasn’t exactly helping. I figured a walk would do me good. It was pretty cold out so I pulled my collar right up to try and cover my neck slightly, and put my hands in my pocket. I didn’t have my reversible with me, so I was pretty damn cold. I started walking, and soon started to wish I’d stayed on the bus a little longer. God, it really was cold out. I started to walk faster, I kept getting faster until I was practically goddamn running! That warmed me up a little, but I couldn’t keep it up for long. My lungs are pretty bad. I’m quite a heavy smoker you see. I felt quite a lot better by the time I got back to Pencey. The fresh air had done me good, but I was still pretty damn cold. Boy! It was like a goddamn ice box out there, it was cold even for December! I figured I’d head straight to the can, a hot shower was exactly what I needed.
Stradlater wasn’t in when I got back to the dorm, which was a good thing. I didn’t really feel like talking. The thought of old Selma Thurman was beginning to depress me. I felt bad for her, I mean, Her goddam phony of a father must be as difficult as hell to live with and she wasn’t exactly the prettiest girl to walk the streets. I was thinking about Selma the entire time I was in the can. I kind of wanted her to meet Phoebe.. They’d get on. Both genuine nice kids. Stradlater still wasn’t in when I got back to the dorm. I figured he had a date, Stradlater was always out. With a different girl every time. He was another one of those hot-shots, never called a girl back. He was pretty good looking and all, nothing too special. Nice guy though, most of the time. I was pretty damn tired when I got back, figured I was getting sick. So I got into my PJ’s figured I’d get an early night, maybe read a book till I fell asleep, I mean I had nothing better to do.