Michael said, “Do you know that when you read your mouth moves.” And I said, “Yes, I know. Other people have mentioned that I do that.” He had just handed me his cell phone and he had asked me to read a text his boss had sent him. He wanted to know if I thought he was going to get fired. Michael put his hand on my shoulder and I thought he was going to say or ask something about his boss or his job, but instead he said, “You can’t read like that, it’s a sign of low intelligence.” He looked scared or embarrassed for me. It was just us sitting on a park bench in Brooklyn. “Says who? Who says it’s a sign of low intelligence?” I asked. “Trust me,” he said, “it is.” And I said, “I think you’re going to get fired.”
I had always read that way. I could not not read that way. My sister had pointed it out years ago. She would laugh and say, “You look stupid!” and I always thought she meant silly, but now I wondered if she meant dumb. When I tried to read without moving my mouth, it was like nothing got in, the words were like birds flying into closed windows. Or the sentences were like sinks that didn’t have drainpipes and the water just poured through the basin and splashed onto the floor. I told Michael I hadn’t learned how to read until the third grade. I had had a string of bad teachers and the result was that I read slowly and I had to mouth the words, but I didn’t mind it, and it didn’t mean I was stupid. I told him it wasn’t something that would end, and he said it was something I should work on, and I said I wouldn’t know where to start.
Timothy Schirmer currently lives in New York City, where he sleeps through all the sunrises. His writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Hobart, Crab Creek Review, Rattle, Word Riot, JMWW, FRiGG, The Monarch Review, The Adirondack Review, Rust + Moth, Bluestem, and in other fine places. He lives online at: timothyschirmer.com