A Reluctant Contortionist

shelby westfall block

A Reluctant Contortionist

Suzanne woke up with a pop and a crack, not unlike her favorite breakfast cereal.  She stretched her lanky limbs, listening to the music her body made.  She paid close attention to her right shoulder, which seemed to have a mind of its own lately.  The snap it made as it slid forward, not unlike a snare drum, was a sound she quite enjoyed.  Of course, it was much easier to hear the music in the morning, before the pops and cracks turned against her.  She stumbled loosely out of bed, limping just the slightest, to her coffee maker and started to brew her morning cup.  Recognizing the limp, she stretched once more.  Suzanne bent over, placing her palms on the floor in front of her feet.  She looked at her knees, now in front of her face.  She needed to shave.  That could wait for another morning.

Fifteen minutes to noon, Suzanne started off to her only class of the day, Biology.  She walked to class with her headphones in, but with no music playing.  She listened instead to herself- to the Suzanne Symphony.  She walked by a young man who looked at her closely as he passed.  Could he hear the music, too?  No, probably not.  She looked down at her legs.  Her hips were everywhere today.  Victoria’s Secret models could only dream of swinging their hips with half of the attitude Suzanne had by accident.  Suddenly aware of this false attitude, she tried to reign it in.  Unsuccessful, she let her hips swing freely as she walked, knowing she would pay for it later.

Biology was tiresome, in every way possible.  Impressively, Suzanne nodded off only twice in the hour and a half class.  Professor Ritter had a monotonous voice that could always put her to sleep, even if she had gotten more than her usual four hours the night before.  She looked around at her classmates.  Somewhere around the third row, notebooks and pencils turned into cell phones.  Suzanne sat in the back row, but she still had her notes out.  Her pen was sitting on her desk and her left hand was wrapped tightly around her right wrist.  Feeling eyes on her, she turned to her left.  The girl sitting next to her was staring at her wrist, eyes wide.  Suddenly, she understood.  The girl had heard the snare drum and Suzanne hadn’t even noticed it.  She loosened her grip and felt her bones settle back into place.  She gave the poor girl a nervous grin and packed up her bag.  Class had finally come to an end.

Naps had become an essential part of the day to Suzanne.  Every day, about five hours in, her muscles would start to fatigue.  Her shoulders would become heavy, her eyes tired, and the world around her would become far less clear.  On this particular day, her hips were asking for rest.  Of course, maybe  “asking”  isn’t the right word.  They were asking for rest the way a five year-old boy asks for Spider Man bandages.  Her hips demanded rest.  They were screaming for rest.  She gave in, just as an exhausted mom usually buys the Spider Man bandages, and laid down to sleep.

She laid on her back, hoping to silence her body.  Instead, the sounds swirled around her.  Her music wasn’t music anymore.  It was a dying children’s toy.  It was the opening credits of a black and white movie.  Discord hugged her tightly- a second blanket she could not kick off.  Trying to get comfortable, she turned over in bed and a thunder roared through her body from her hip.  Her legs were pretzeled underneath her and she didn’t have the energy to unfold them.  She tried closing her eyes but her world still spun.  One by one, her senses began to lie to her.  Though she was quite certain that she was still laying safely on her bed, every part of her body assured her that she was not, so she opened her eyes to check.  The clock was cruel to her.  Despite the hours that had spun around her, only twenty minutes had managed to pass by and she decided to give up on her nap.

Suzanne spent the rest of her evening in a haze.  She stared at her homework for hours before giving up and parking herself in front of the TV with her knitting needles.  She gazed absently at the news and let her hands work without any thought at all. She always liked to knit on her foggy nights.  Suzanne found that her body could stop her from just about anything, but it didn’t have to stop her from everything.  On nights like these, when her world spun around her and every joint ached, her hands were still nimble.  Her scarves and sweaters were little victories she saw in her closet every morning.  When her body stopped making music, she could always count on the clicking of her needles to put rhythm back into her life.  It was the reminder she always needed at the end of a long night.  It was a reminder of the music she would surely face again in the morning, when her body had yet to turn against her and she could hear the rhythm in her bones.


Suzanne is a fictional character based off of the life of someone who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  To learn more about EDS, or to donate, visit http://ednf.org.


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