Leviticus 19:28 “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”
“Jesus Christ, man – do you ever drink any water?”
My skin is taut. So taut, that it is almost impossible for someone to grab a handful of the flesh across my back, to pinch a chunk of it together. This is a problem, because this is a necessary part of the process. This is an even bigger problem, because in order for me to be able to follow through on what I have set out to do this evening, my flesh has to have some give in it.
There is no other way.
The date is May 12th, 2001. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This evening marks five years to the day that my own mother passed away – May 12th, 1996 – which just so happened to be Mother’s Day of that year. Me being the always-suffering and mourning son, I’ve decided that instead of my usual routine of getting plowed on as many illegal substances as possible at one time and making blubbering, incoherent long distance phone calls to members of my family and ex-girlfriends in the middle of the night, I’m going to try something different this year.
For the last few months, I have been working with some very interesting people. I stumbled into this weird little world right as my latest attempt at fitting in in The Straight World had flamed-the-fuck-on-out. I had just lost my last gig working as the manager of some chain restaurant because I was so fucking irresponsible and fucked-up in the head that I couldn‘t even get to work on time anymore. My truck had also recently been repossessed – right in front of my boss, which I think helped lead him into making the decision to can my ass, which he did at four-thirty in the morning on a Sunday.
Like I said – I had by then somehow drifted into this very weird and alternate universe type of world. I had become friendly with some people in Phoenix who were pushing the envelope on a lot of fronts – “artists,” if you will. I was a member of an Internet community that was geared toward people who were into body modification, and through that site I was able to connect with some people locally. After spending some time with them, I was asked to help them with their businesses.
Anyway – that part doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that through these people, there were things that I once thought impossible now being shown to be not only possible, but suddenly plausible. I have always been one to sort of let The Universe guide me to wherever it was that I needed to be, and being around these people had shown me that there were plenty of people out there in the world who were doing something akin to what I had always done, albeit in very different manifestations.
I have always, from a very young age, wanted to separate mind and body. Whether it was through meditation, drugs, sleep deprivation, exercise, or even fasting – I was apt to give it a shot. I’d followed seers, shamans, medicine men, and every other type of charlatan out there in the world who had promises of being able to complete, or even come close to this type of separation.
Some of my new friends achieved this goal before my very eyes. I had witnessed some very intense things, and came to the realization as the anniversary of my mother’s death was inching closer on the calendar, that I was going to use this opportunity that The Universe was putting before me for something new and powerful. I was not going to waste this. I was not going to do as I mentioned earlier on in this Ramble and get loaded on whatever I could get my hands on. No, I was going to take this to a whole different level of mourning.
I was going to fly.
[This is the part of the Ramble where I warn you that if you are in any way a squeamish person, you might want to go on ahead and read someone else’s site and forget I ever posted this entry.]
So, after witnessing many flesh suspensions, I came to the conclusion that I was going to do one my damn self. My new friends did this type of thing almost every night, weather permitting. If you wanted to be hung in Phoenix, these were the people that were doing it. I had seen a few suspensions done as performances before I met these people, but they were always run by my new friends anyway. And now that I was amongst them on a daily basis, I was also able to witness private suspensions that happened.
I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and in my meditation earlier in the week, I was able to reach a place of clarity I had not been able to reach before – which was a good sign for me. After speaking with my friend who ran the suspension group, and explaining the circumstances behind my decision, it was decided that we would do this on Saturday night, in the privacy of his back yard. When he asked me how I wanted to “go up,” I asked him which method would constrict my breathing the most, as I was pretty convinced that in order to achieve the state of mind/body separation I was looking for, a lack of oxygen was imperative.
It was then decided that I was going to go up “suicide” style – with four large hooks through the flesh of my upper back. The four hooks would support all of my weight, and also lift my shoulders up and back, which would change the way that oxygen was flowing into my body. I had seen another friend do this very type of suspension about a month earlier, so I knew what to expect to a degree.
The day I was to be hung, my then-girlfriend was acting up something fierce. She was young, and also someone who at that time in her life was struggling very much with being accepted by this crew of people. At one point during the day, she actually said out loud –
“I don’t understand why you get to be the only one to suspend tonight? It isn’t fair. Your mother has been dead for five years. Get over it.“
Obviously, my blood began to boil immediately. I tried very hard to stay within myself and let the words just slide away, because I wasn’t about to let her childish petulance get in the way of something that was very important to me – especially something that I was taking on in such a spiritual manner. She then asked me if she could call some of her friends, so that they could come and watch. I shot that idea down very quickly, and watched her go stumble over to the computer to pout about it.
I honestly didn’t care so much in the moment. I had much more important things on my mind.
I am now sitting backward on a metal folding chair, as two of my friends are trying to grab up enough of a handful of my flesh to push a hook through it. They are struggling, because my flesh will not cooperate with them. Standing in front of me is the girlfriend of my friend who is in charge of everything. She is currently running the show, since The Universe struck him down with a terrible bout of food poisoning.
I took that as a sign.
She is holding my hands as the first hook pushes through. There is an audible pop as the hook comes through the other side of the lump of skin that my friends managed to grab hold of. I feel a little light-headed, so she shoves a handful of Skittles into my mouth, and wipes my face down with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol. My then-girlfriend is standing in the corner, still pouting and acting petulant.
“One down, three to go – you hangin’ in there, buddy?”
I nod, and go back to chewing on the candy in my mouth, trying to focus on what I am about to do. In my lifetime I have already walked on hot coals and broken glass. In my lifetime I have already fasted for ten days. In my lifetime I have already taken peyote with a Navajo medicine man.
I understand that this will be different, but somehow similar.
Three hooks later, and I am now standing outside in the back yard. One friend is on top of the roof, waiting for the signal to start cranking me up into the air from the two friends who are standing next to me. The hooks in my back are attached to ropes that are attached to an apparatus that is attached to a winch. I am smoking.
“You have to lean yourself forward a little bit, try and get a good stretch going so that the hooks loosen you up a bit. If you don’t do that, you’ll probably pass out as soon as you go up. Okay?”
I follow the advice given, and start to lean myself as far forward as I can. My friend’s girlfriend asked me if there was any music that I wanted to listen to, so I had her throw on Adam And Eve, by The Catherine Wheel. I loved that album. Perfect little songs. I imagined myself floating to them as I stretched myself out further and further, pulling the lines as tight as they would go. I was bouncing on the balls of my feet.
“I’m ready to go up, guys. I’m ready to go now.”
I can hear the winch cranking. I can feel the pressure in my flesh as the lines start to get tension in them. I can feel myself being pulled back and up. My two friends are standing on either side of me now, each one of them holding onto my hands as they inspect the lines and the hooks – to make sure nothing will go wrong.
When you are weightless, nothing around you makes any sense. I can still hear the music, but it sounds like it is under water. I know that my breathing has changed, because the lights out here have dimmed. My feet are no longer on the ground, and nobody is holding my hands. The illusion of being held up is gone – I am hanging from hooks in my flesh.
Closing my eyes, I try to navigate the millions of thoughts that are being processed by my mind. There is no pain. All I feel is the pressure of my flesh holding my weight. For a brief second, my mind flashes to the possibility of one of the hooks popping through my skin, but I quickly squash that thought – my friends would not let that happen to me. They are taking this as seriously as I am. They all know how important this moment is for me.
When you are weightless, there is no time. A minute can be an hour. An hour can be a minute. What happens outside of your body is inconsequential. What happens inside of your mind is all that matters. In my mind, I am trying to find her. I know she is in here with me. I can feel her. I can almost smell her.
When I open my eyes, everyone is staring at me. I am still hanging in the sky. It is raining, but none of the drops are hitting me. The rain is light. The ground below me is wet with it, but none of it is on my body. The air feels warm. Someone is talking in hushed tones, but I cannot make out the words. Looking up into the night, I can see a clear patch in the clouds, and I can see the stars.
“I’m ready to come down now. Thank you.”
When you are weightless, and your feet touch the ground again, it is a very awkward feeling. Almost like having sea legs – you just do not trust that the earth will stand still for you. When the initial contact is made, and the sole of your shoe touches the pavement for the first time, you feel something that I cannot even begin to describe with language.
Everything feels like it happened so quickly, but you realize you must have been up in the air for a while when you hear that the album is on the last track. Your friends have huddled around you quietly, offering you sips of water and another handful of candy to go with the cigarette you’ve asked for. You do not feel faint, even though they have all told you that you might.
If anything, you feel just right. As if you actually were able to accomplish what you set out to do.
In retrospect, I am thankful that I took this journey. Would I do it again? I don’t think so. There is no need for me to revisit something that might cheapen the experience that I had with it – which was my main reason for doing it in the first place, to experience something powerful. Over the years, I’ve talked to some people about the experience, but mostly, I never really felt any reason to talk about it at great length. It was my experience. I am thankful that I was able to do this in a safe and emotionally supportive place – the people that were there with me will always have a little nook that belongs to them in my timeline.
If you find yourself ever wanting to take a journey like this, please do seek out someone who knows what the fuck they are doing. If you need to be pointed in their direction, let me know – I’ll get you to the proper people.