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The Mountain's High

It's four in the morning, my mind is racing, my lower back is aching, my upper back is bandaged and sore, but I feel happy.

Four and a half hours ago I suspended for the first time. I don't think hindsight will add anything of significance to this account, so I'll write it out while the memory is still fresh.

A few months ago I discovered that Azl, a piercer from Black Sun Studio, was planning on doing a suspension event, which he called ETRE SUSPENDU. I've been wanting to suspend since visiting Shannon Larratt's July first BBQ and witnessing firsthand what I thought was one the most daring things a human being can do. I bought a ticket and invited a friend for moral support.

The day came, and with a heavy heart we walked through falling snow to the location, a bar called ALIZE. The first person to greet me was Azl, whose presence and demeanor had a calming effect. After telling me how many people would suspend, I decided to go third.

My friend and I sat near the stage area and soon after Azl was suspending from two ten gauge hooks in his chest. He looked as though he felt no pain, but a few minutes later started showing signs of shock and was quickly and gently pulled down into his aids' arms. Everyone applauded. He recovered on the spot and started preparing for the second suspension. I started feeling more nervous, so I asked my friend to buy a pack of cigarettes, though I hadn't smoked in over three months. Shortly after Kaitlin and Julien arrived. Julien was also going to suspend, and we talked about what was to come.

The second person to suspend came out of the piercing area with hooks in his back and chest. He looked composed and sat with his eyes closed, while Azl carefully thread the rope through the hoops in the hooks, connecting it to the pulling rig. He went up and was still, keeping his eyes closed. About five minutes later he started shaking a bit, and Azl made a call to lower him. He came down in spasms and gave out a few grunts, but on the ground quickly regain his composure. Everyone applauded again.

I was up next. I decided on a suicide suspension: six ten gauge hooks in the upper back. I felt as unprepared as when I first thought of doing it, but Azl and his helpers (thank you, Cindy and Corey) put me at ease. They assured me that the worst pain would be the piercings and that going up would be bliss. I took my shirt off and sat in the chair, while Cindy sterilized my back and Azl prepared his tools. "Don't breathe too deeply," he said, pinched my skin and the first needle went in. The pain was intense and sharp. he gave me half a minute to relax again, then in went the second. The pain almost made me curse. Then Azl said, "Think of the mountain," and for some reason a bit of song came into my head from a '60s Doo-woop group, Dick and Deedee: "The mountain's high and the valley's so deep / Can't get across to the other side / Don't ya give up baby, don't you cry / Don't ya give up till I reach the other side." I kept singing it to myself as the other needles went in an d soon I had three hooks on each side of my upper back. I've never had a succession of six piercings and was shaking from the adrenaline rush. When it subsided, I walked out of the prep area and sat in a chair below the rig.

I kept my head down and tried not to think of all the strangers watching me under the spotlight, looking only at people I knew, who where smiling, which made me feel a bit better. Azl took his time threading the rope and I felt very little discomfort. When he was done, he crouched next to me and told me that I could stop anytime I felt like, and that this wasn't a contest and I was doing this for myself. He told the men to slowly raise the rig and told me to lift off the chair as the pressure on my back increased. I shakily rose and in a few seconds I was on my tiptoes, and VERY SCARED. Azl was standing by me and observing my reactions the whole time. I felt fragile, like I was made of china. Without thinking I grabbed his right hand and held onto it tightly as I was lifted in the air. "You did it," said Azl.

I was very tense, feeling the mix of pain and heavy pressure on my back, still holding Azl's hand - my only link to the ground below. I must've been that way for thirty seconds, when suddenly I decided to relax my legs. They did instantly. I then told my back and arms to do the same, and pulled my hand out of Azl's, who misinterpreted it as a sign I wanted to go down. I said no, and he left my side. I was still in pain, but could handle it. Slowly, I started moving my legs. I was trying to swing. On my sixth attempt I started rocking back and forth, faster and wider. It felt unbelievable. Then Azl told me not to swing so much, since the rig could destabilize and collapse. I continued swinging, but slower, in synch with some techno music playing in the background. I swung with my head lowered, sometimes opening my eyes and looking at strange people who were looking at me, not caring that they were there in the slightest.

At one point I decided to push myself even further by raising the pressure on my back. I wanted to lift my legs with my hands, but only managed to grab my right leg, hanging that way for a few seconds. That made the pressure shift to my left side, and those three hooks suddenly started hurting like never before, and I made a sign for Azl to lower me. I was gently put back on my feet, the pressure from my back vanished, and I felt very light and a little lightheaded, in a very good way. The rope was cut and Cindy told me the time I was up. Ten minutes. It really surprised me, because I haven't thought I'd been up that long; I felt like I was suspended half that time. Azl shook my hand, people applauded, and I went back to the prep area to get the hooks removed. It was unpleasant, but quick, and afterwards Cindy massaged my back, squeezing as much air out of it as she could. (When the skin stretches during a suspension, the air gets in through the holes and has to be massaged out. I've yet to get a followup massage, but people say the air makes crackling sounds as it moves under the skin.) Azl told me I'll get to keep one hook from my suspension after he sterilizes it.

The rest of the evening I spent feeling relaxed and elated, watching an intense pull between Kaitlin and Corey, and even more intense suspension from Julien, but I'll leave them to tell about it.

I want to thank Azl, again, and all the people who made this a night to remember until I die.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 02 Jan. 2002
in Ritual

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Artist: Azl
Studio: At+ALIZE+as+part+of+the+ETRE+SUSPENDU+event
Location: Montreal%2C+QC%2C+Canada

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