I finally lived out my dream of trying a suspension, a 6pt suicide.
I worried about it for weeks before it actually happened. Most of the time I wasn't even considering the actual suspension, but rather the throwing of my hooks.
I hate to be touched on the back. I absolutely can't stand for anyone other than a close friend to lay a hand on my back. I tense up, I can't breathe, and I retreat.
And I was going to let two... or more... people grab the skin on my back. Pull it. Stab it.
The thought of it gave me chills.
And even worse, I was going to travel 1000 miles to do it.
I knew I was going to be with friends. I was even staying for a week with the man pulling my rope. But I was terrified.
I watched 20 people suspend before my time came.
I saw extremely varied reactions.
Some people seemed completely immune to the pain of the hooks in their backs, legs, knees, chests. Others screamed, barely left the ground. I knew at least one girl never made it into the air.
My friends kept me distracted as my turn got closer and closer.
But when the time came for me to sit on that black massage table, in the middle of a large crowded room, I was already starting to shake. Some would say it was just my body's reaction to the endorphines and the adrenaline, but fuck that noise... I was scared.
I sat patiently, dealing surprisingly well with the pressing and pulling required to mark my skin for my hook placement.
I was asked to lay down on my stomach, and I immediately asked a friend to sit in front of me and hold my hands.
Before I laid down, I kicked off my shoes. I don't know why exactly, but it seemed right.
At this point, everything begins to blur.
This is not the blur of motion, like an experience gone so quickly the memory is jumbled.
This is the white hot blur of pain, obscuring an image you desperately wish to see.
Mostly, I remember hands.
I remember hands on my back, gripping, massaging, pulling, pinching, poking, and piercing.
I remember those hands in front of me. Those big, strong hands, unmistakably male, and oddly motionless.
Each hook pierced. Each hook caught midway. The hands gripped tighter, and pushed with greater force.
All hands, that is, but those in front of me.
I don't remember squeezing, but I know I did.
I looked through pictures later, and noticed his finger tips changing colors as the process went on.
My memory of sounds is limited. My strongest memories are of myself. Gasps, cries, the catch of breath that refused to be caught...
After my fourth hook, I had to take a break. I was crying and hyperventilating. I was already feeling defeated.
If I couldn't handle a few hooks going through my skin, how the fuck could I hang from them?
After my fifth and sixth hooks, I was done. I asked for a bottle of water and tried to stand.
I was immediately told to sit back down.
I don't know if I was wobbly, or pale, or if maybe that was just standard procedure, but it seemed like a pretty good idea to sit back down.
I wiped away my tears, caught my breath, drank most of my bottle of water, and made my way outside.
I walked to the rig slowly, ready to hang from the big tree as my friends watched.
I knew I was being hooked to the rig. I remember being told they had to adjust my hooks, and it might hurt a bit.
I certainly remember that pain.
What I don't remember is the crowd in front of me. I know my eyes were open. I've seen plenty of pictures to prove it. But I don't remember seeing anything.
The next thing I remember is my hook-thrower standing in front of me. She looked concerned, and repeated my name several times. I assume she must have been trying to get my attention for a while.
She asked me if I wanted to start rocking, to set my hooks.
I looked at her for a moment, and leaned toward her. I took her hands.
I felt like I could have fallen, but of course was being held upright by my flesh.
I realized my shoes were still on, and slowly kicked them off.
I rocked for a while, and slowly asked for more and more tension.
I made it to my toes... I was so close... and suddenly I panicked.
I repeated the word "no" until I was flat footed again.
I looked my hook thrower in the face. She looked concerned, asked if I was done, but I told her that I wanted to try again.
I asked for more tension.
Eventually I started asking the man holding my rope directly.
But as I reached my tip-toes again, I had the same mental block. I had to come down again, and was released from the rig.
I know the woman in front of me made me smile. But only because I've seen it in pictures. I felt like a horrible failure, and everyone was watching. Not just my friends, but people I had never met, a band I hope to never hear again, a photographer who offered me photographic evidence of my own personal defeat.
I remember ducking under the caution tape around the suspension area, and seeing my friends sitting there, smiling, sympathetic, yet somehow encouraging.
I felt my lip quiver, and immediately looked away.
I could have cried as my hooks were removed, despite barely feeling them.
The same woman who held my hands looked me in the face, told me to be proud, because I had done more than most people would ever do.
I knew she was right, but damn it, I wanted to fly.
As I stood up, my friends were immediately there to give me hugs and words of encouragement.
And the other girl who stayed on the ground grabbed me from the crowd, pulled me away, and offered me a cigarette that she promised would be "better than sex".
I had two.
She was right.