Anita was one of those agile, young gymnasts whose limberness and daring were a constant source of admiration and envy.
She seemed to be able to do it all: front flips, back flips, backbends, splits.
I couldn’t even cartwheel.
I did a relatively competent forward AND backward somersault, but this garnered little admiration or support from my peers. So, I spent a good deal of time laying back on lawns.
Awed, in particular, by Anita’s long, lanky, bendy body twisting, turning and taking flight. Wondering why and how she could do the things she did, when those skills so skillfully eluded me.
Or was it the passion to try?
But Anita’s dexterity defied the norms of stretchability because Anita was (and still is, I’ll venture to guess) double-jointed.
Be it slumber party or playground, upon request, she would good-naturedly demonstrate this unusual trait by pulling the tips of all four fingers back until the tops of her nails touched her forearm; misshaping her long, slender, freckled hand and wrist, as if made of moist clay.
She could also invert her knees and shoulders until her bowed silhouette looked as if it had been blown inside out, reminding me of an upturned umbrella on a rainy, windy day in The Windy City.
Illogical and ludicrous.
Her semi-regular recess demonstrations gathered curious, new kids to circle around and gasp at her unearthly elasticity – almost as much as when our classmate, Amy, popped out her false eye.
With a delicate balance of respect and horror, her bendable ways made me think of my Barbie, whose own bendy parts had long ago broken from time after time of forcing bendy poses. There were times I attempted to be like Barbie and my friend, but my body resisted and instead of smiling through it (like Barbie) and pushing through it (like Anita), I felt impossibly cramped and uncomfortable.
Disjointed. Disfigured. Dysfunctional.
Graphic images of parts breaking – snap!, like a twig – were stubborn to leave my imagination. So I quit trying.
Preferring to watch from the shade of a tree, where rubbing my knuckles and elbows and knees with their imaginary aches and graphically imagined breaks, I marveled at my double-jointed friend, who could bend and bend and bend.