If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is how I got it, and what a lousy year this has been, and how my parents haven’t left the house since April, and all that Anthony Fauci kind of crap, but I don’t really want to go into it, if you want the truth. In the first place, I have no idea how I got it. It was probably old Spencer with his lousy grippe and all, but if my parents caught wind of me accusing somebody from Pencey of infecting me, they’d probably have a hemorrhage for chrissake.

I’d been trying to sit six feet away from him that day at his house, on account of his mask being below his nose the whole goddamn time. I wanted to be polite so I asked him, “How’s your grippe, sir?” even though I was pretty sure it wasn’t grippe.

“M’boy, if I felt any better, I’d have to send for the doctor,” he said. That knocked him out and he started wheezing like a madman. I just wanted to get the hell out of there because I had to pack. Old Dr. Thurmer’s email had already gone home to the parents about how the school was closing and we should limit contact to only people from our dorm. I felt bad leaving him so soon, especially since I wasn’t supposed to see him and Pencey was absolute crap about contact tracing. I knew he cared about me. I really did. When I heard he and old Mrs. Spencer didn’t make it, I felt bad. Most of the people at Pencey were phonies, but old Spencer told you the truth most of the time. He was a helluva guy, really.

But I wasn’t thinking about that as I walked back to Ossenberger Hall. I was thinking about Phoebe and how her school had closed a week before Pencey on account of the outbreak being worse in the City. Just thinking about her made me happy, so I was really sick when I walked into my dorm room and saw Ackley wearing my red hunting cap. I thought about him and his mossy teeth and his pimples and his terrible personality. I knew he was going to start in on me about how bad I thought it was going to get and whether I thought remote learning was even going to be worth it. I hadn’t told him that I’d been kicked out. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him. I just didn’t think he deserved to know.

Besides, he wasn’t wearing a mask at all. Dr. Thrumer’s email had said they weren’t necessary for people who’d already been exposed to each other, but I thought it was downright rude of him so I just asked him, “If you don’t mind, I don’t really feel like dying today, so how about putting your mask on?”

Anybody but Ackley would’ve taken the goddam hint. Not him, though. “If I have it, you have it,” he said.

“Listen, Ackley kid, how about you take off my goddam hat and put on a goddam mask,” I told him. He hated it when I called him Ackley kid.

He started walking around my room like a sonuvabitch, picking up my personal stuff, drinking from my Nalgene bottle, just like he hadn’t even heard me. I know it sounds awful, but I didn’t even feel bad when I heard Ackley got it. That’s the only way a guy like him will learn a lesson.

Stradlater, on the other hand, I felt sort of bad about. He’d come back from the big game–the one I skipped to go see old Spencer, which in hindsight might have been a bad idea–to borrow my hound’s-tooth jacket.

He came through the door in a hurry as usual. Everything was a big deal with Stradlater.

“I spilled some crap on my gray flannel,” he said, like I was just supposed to give him my jacket. I did, of course, but I told the big oaf not to stretch the shoulders. I suppose I should have taken my handkerchief out of the pocket but it honestly never occurred to me. I admit, when I heard old Stradlater got it, I felt a little guilty, but nothing like the way I felt about Ernest Morrow’s mother.

I was sitting on the train when this woman, around forty or forty-five, sat down across the aisle from me. Women kill me, they really do, although, now that I think about it, in this case, it might’ve been the other way around.

Anyway, we were sitting there, and all of a sudden she says to me, “Isn’t that a Pencey Prep sticker?”

We struck up a conversation. I told her all kinds of lies — I can tell some whoppers — about Pencey, and how my name was Rudolf Schmidt, and how her son was the most popular kid on campus. She seemed surprised because she said he’d always been a sensitive boy. That nearly killed me. I knew Ernest Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat. We shared a few cigarettes, which I lit for her in quite a sexy way by putting two in my mouth at once and then passing one to her. In retrospect, that might not have been such a great idea.

A lot more madman stuff happened before I got pretty run-down and came out here to take it easy. There was that phony Lillian Simmons and her terrific knockers. I didn’t feel too bad about her to tell you the truth in spite of her being DB’s ex. Sally Hayes, with her short skirt and cute little ass, probably deserved better. And then there was Sunny, the girl from the hotel, although I don’t really know what happened to her. We only talked, so maybe she wound up okay. Plus Maurice and I were in the elevator for quite a while. At least Phoebe didn’t get it, though they say it’s not so bad for kids.

That’s all I’m going to tell about it. I suppose I’ll go home after I get out of here, but I don’t feel like it. I really don’t.

This one doctor keeps asking me if I’ll be more careful when I get back. It’s such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know. I swear it’s such a stupid question.