Whenever I looked down at a word/The only thing that I would see/Was letters weaving in and out, their true meaning a mystery to me./I wasn’t stupid, but reading was absurd.
They said that I was a smart girl, a bright girl, every single one.
None of them were right, all of them were wrong.
All of the classes I was in, I knew that I did not belong.
In my many years of school, up until then the amount of people that knew was none.
It wasn’t until that fateful year
When that well-meaning Mr. Bolshoi
Invited me to a club that he thought I might enjoy.
Oh, but even the thought of it now, doesn’t exactly make me want to cheer.
“Charlie, please stay a moment longer,”
He said just as I was about to go,
“I think you’re amazing in class, your work dazzles and glows.
I can only think of a few things that would make you stronger.
“You see, your analysis of text is just short of perfection.
There is a club I would like you to attend;
A club that was abolished once, but is now on the mend.”
At this moment I was trying to figure out how to say my rejection.
“It’s for kids like you,
Who could be the best of the best
And fly above the rest.”
Right then I felt like he was trying to be some sort of literature guru.
He then looked at me expectantly…
And I wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted me to say.
I might have stayed there the entire day.
Thankfully Mr. Bolshoi looked at my wordlessness with sympathy.
He said nothing, and neither did I.
Eventually I think I might have eventually nodded my head in submission
As he then pulled out a form asking for a parent’s permission.
I knew at that moment this club seemed worse than sticking a needle in my eye.
The next day was the day I went.
My knees quaked with fear and regret
I even began to sweat.
To get out of this, I think I would spend my every cent.
I slowly sat down, glancing around the room,
All of these other kids seemed to be cool and chic.
I had thoughts about leaving, but then Mr. Bolshoi began to speak.
I settled down, waiting for his speech, feeling like this was to be my doom.
“Hello dear students!
I’m so glad you could come today,
And I certainly hope that all of you will stay.”
He looked at a girl opposite me. “And that includes you, Prudence.”
There was an awkward chuckle that ran along the group.
Then someone coughed and another cleared a throat.
Mr. Bolshoi broke the silence with a smile. “I hope all of you are exited; You’ll be reading the Hero and The Boat.”
Everyone stared at him, horrified. All of them stuttering and blubbering like nincompoops.
One kid said, “No way Mr. B!
We have homework enough,
We don’t need any more of that stuff.”
Whereas I, I didn’t even notice, I was preparing to flee.
The sound of arguing no longer reached my ears.
All of the fear I felt, I knew it was irrational.
But, at that moment, I wasn’t exactly searching for rational,
Because anyone finding out my secret was the biggest of my fears.
While the rest of the students were bickering and complaining,
I slowly stood up and made my way out.
I’m glad none of them noticed or asked what my exit was about.
When I exited the school I shouted when I realized it was raining.
I sat on the steps of the school,
Cursing the gods above and below and everywhere around.
My mind felt like a battleground.
Should I go back and get my stuff in that room where hatefulness seemed to seethe in a cesspool?
I sat there debating and collecting my wits.
Part of me wanted to just stay on that step getting rained on.
It was obvious to me that my sense of self-preservation was gone.
Eventually I concluded that returning was better than freezing to bits.
Just as I stood up, ready to face my sure end,
The doors to the school opened and someone stepped out.
“Charlie?” I stayed where I was, being found was something I could do without.
I prayed that this person would find someone else to befriend.
They didn’t. The person saw me hunched where I was, and plopped down next to me.
“Well, hello,” he said, “Now, isn’t this damp stone step so nice?”
I edged away from him and gave him a glare that I hoped looked colder than ice.
The person laughed at my gesture. “I’m not kidding. Isn’t this cozy?”
I was surprised when his breath fogged in the rain. I hadn’t realized it was that cold.
He stuck out a tanned hand. “My name’s also Charlie. So what’re you doing out here?”
His hand went ignored. I rolled my eyes and tried to sneer.
“I am slowly dying by growing old.”
This other Charlie laughed again. He seemed to do that a lot.
“I saw you leave Mr. B’s room. So why’d you do it?”
“That’s not quite your business. Is it?”
He laughed. Again. “You’re snarky when class is the place you’re not.”
I raised an eyebrow at his bizarre phrasing.
“Humor me. Why did you leave?”
I could tell he was not a person to ignore or deceive.
I took a deep breath, “Because my reading skills are less than amazing?”
Charlie looked at me intently. “And?”
“I-I don’t want to say. It’s embarrassing.”
He grinned. “Look at me, I’m not judging.”
From the corner of my eye he seemed a trustworthy man.
“They said that I was a smart girl, a bright girl, every single one.
None of them were right, because all of them were wrong.
All of the classes I was in, I knew that I didn’t belong.
In my many years of school, up until now the amount of people that knew was none.”
Charlie perked up as if to learn my truth was a burning need.
“Knew what?” he demanded. “Tell me.”
My secret could not keep forever; exposed it had to be.
I took a deep breath and placed my fate in his hands. “I can’t read.
“I manage to get by with small phrases with ease,
And with assigned reading I just listen to the audiobooks.
I had some trouble with textbooks.”
When that Charlie said nothing about my tale I fixed my eyes on my rain-soaked knees.
“So you’re what, just really, incredibly, dumb?”
I looked up and saw his eyes boring holes into mine, looking sharp like a knife.
There was an odd cruelness in his eyes that seemed to want to take a life.
“No- I,” I tried to say I wasn’t, but my senses were going numb.
“What good are you to society?
If you can’t learn to read by now, you’re as good as dirt.”
Every word he said, God, it hurt.
“You’re the scum of the worst variety.”
Charlie turned on his heel and retreated indoors.
I felt something die inside.
All of the things he said were things that I had thought, but tried to hide.
There was a loud bang that came from the closing of the doors.
I stood up and walked away.
Away from the people with words so harsh,
And away from feeling like something better left in a dank marsh.
I followed a small pathway.
Whenever I looked down at a word,
The only thing that I would see
Was letters weaving in and out, their true meaning a mystery to me.
Am I stupid? My reading is absurd.
I never made it home.
I didn’t make it anywhere.
The path I took led nowhere. I still don’t know why it was there.
When I reached the end of the path there was a little stone bench with a gnome.
I sat down there.
And I sat,
and I sat.
The rain was pouring down, but I didn’t care.
I knew Charlie was right, the one that wasn’t me.
He said that I was the scum of the worst variety.
He said that I had no place in society.
And then, I had to agree.
I felt a tear fall down my face. And then a few more.
They joined the puddles of rain at my feet.
It was astonishing, the amount of tears my eyes could excrete.
Suddenly, the rain stopped, like it would have done in the days of yore.
A voice called out in the once-rainy woods.
“Charlie?” It cried, and my heart leapt with something akin to joy.
I knew that was no the voice of hate, it was the voice of Mr. Bolshoi.
I could hear his footfalls as he traipsed through these backwoods.
When he reached me, he sat down on that small stone bench.
He said that he had been waiting for my return,
And my stomach once again began to churn.
But then, without prompting, my story spilled out like a stream I couldn’t quench.
He sat patiently and heard everything that I had to say.
He listened as I told him of the harsh words that came from the other Charlie.
He listened as I told him of my stupidity.
Then I listened, when he told me to stay.
So, you see, whenever I looked down at a word,
The only thing that I could ever see
Were letters weaving in and out, their true meaning forever a mystery to me.
I wasn’t stupid, he told me, I was ignorant. Of dyslexia. A condition that can’t be cured.
And now, many years have passed.
I work with children who have dyslexia like me,
Help them know that they aren’t stupid and do have a place in society.
Though my mind isn’t like others, I have peace with myself at last.