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The Virgin Suicide

Absolutely not, I'd said. Don't get me wrong, I admire the strength of each and every person who does it and to watch it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, but it's still not for me.

Two friends and I who I had just recently met from IAM were sitting in a pub one chilly spring weekend, talking about suspension. How the conversation had started I cannot recall, but I remember how it ended; with a firm statement from me that while I loved body modification in all its forms, suspension and other similar ritual experiences were not my thing. I perhaps would have done well at that point to recall all the other things that I had done in my life that I had once said were impossible or not desired and if not thought again about suspension, then at least recognised the possibility for change. Within a couple of months of that conversation I had split from my long-term, live in partner, and as a consequence a certain blossoming freedom of thought began to make me re-evaluate things I had previously considered as having no relevance to myself.

Soon after this I attended BME Fest 2004 in Toronto with twenty or so other IAMers from the UK and had a long thought about full sleeve scarification finally realised by a fellow attendee, Vampy, as both a mark and a celebration of this new found liberation. The intention behind the scarification had been purely aesthetic, but I found that the pain that accompanied it was unexpectedly cathartic and the calm I felt when it was finished almost astounding. As a result of these two experiences, when a friend later spoke to me about her intention to suspend for the first time at a small meet that Vampy was planning to hold a little later in that same year, I did not dismiss the idea of participating in a tandem suspension quite so readily.

But neither did I take the idea as seriously as I ought to have. I told no-one outside of my IAM friends what I was planning on doing, partly because I do not like explaining myself and partly because I could not explain; I suspected I did not want the experience of suspending in itself as much as I wanted to try something new and challenging and it was this relatively casual attitude that was to cause me some difficulty when the time came. And that time, as these things often do, came around with me hardly noticing it. Just a few hours after we arrived at the meet we were due to suspend, and that was when I began to realise just how mentally unprepared I was. I had, of course, read many accounts of suspension before that day and knew how things would proceed practically, but that knowledge was not all I needed to be able to cope.

A brief discussion between myself, my friend and Vampy had resulted in the decision that a four point suicide would be a good introduction to suspension for us, and when the time came for the insertion of the hooks they were done two at once; Vampy on the right side, and another friend, a participant in the original pub conversation where I denied any desire to do this, on my left. Vampy was quick and sure with the hooks, my still-learning friend less so. The pain dull and thick, more intense than any piercing I had or have had since and my body was tense and co-operative the whole time. The first surprise I had was that even after the hooks were inserted, I was unable to relax. My shoulders were stiff with the desire not to let the hooks move in my body, perhaps afraid of any pain this might cause. Gingerly I made my way out into the garden where the rig was set up with two sets of rope. I stood under the rig and let my hooks be connected to the ropes, tightly holding the hands of my hook-inserting friend and it was at this point that my heart started to thump insistently and my stomach started to turn. There were never any thoughts of escape, never any of calling it off, but it was now I realised that I had no idea what was coming next and no idea of how to cope with it. Very slowly, on my nod, the ropes started to tauten. The tugging on the hooks in my back was unpleasant, but not painful, and within thirty seconds I was standing on the very tips of my toes. Unable to trust that the hooks would support me and not tear, I could not either give the word for the ropes to lift me free or to pull my legs from up under me. I tottered for a minute or so until somebody asked – now? I nodded, not wanting it at all, and within a few seconds I was in the air.

In the air, and utterly unable to cope. Having had no idea of the sensation I should expect, I was bracing myself for pain and got something else entirely. My mind went dark, and I saw nothing and heard nothing but my own voice saying down, down, down down. I was lowered quickly to the ground, but as soon as my feet touched the earth I knew that wasn't it for me, that I'd be going back up. Now I had the information, the experience of what it was like, I could process it into a strategy for coping. After a few deep breaths and a minute to calm down, I got ready to go again.

This time instead of holding my hands, my friend supported me bodily until I was in the air, and gently, slowly, let go until I was hanging by myself. The sensation was still unlike any other; an overwhelming feeling of pressure in my back and shoulders, but no pain. I hung freely for a few minutes, still fighting in the back of my mind a thread of panic that the hooks could not possibly support me, but despite being unable to truly relax and move freely that would have alleviate the cramps in my arms and shoulders, I felt elated. I had done it. I held the hand of my friend who was also suspending and grinned madly. Not wanting to push things it was a short suspension, and so in time I was on the ground again, sobbing with glee and relief and something else I cannot quite name.

The dried blood was cleaned from my skin, the hooks removed and my back massaged firmly to remove any air bubbles under my skin. I found the massage quiet painful, in contrary to what many others have said, as I think by this point I just wanted to be left alone in my blissful, spaced out world. I was simultaneously pleased and angry with myself, that I had done something I found difficult but that it had probably been made unnecessarily hard by taking the whole thing so lightly beforehand.

I change my mind quite often about whether it's something I would attempt again. I remember the difficulties and the pain and think not, and then I recall that brief but serene state of mind that I've never achieved elsewhere and wonder what I could experience if next time I was properly prepared. Either way, I hope I've learnt to recognise all things as potential opportunities, even if I'm not always immediately ready to act upon them.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 19 July 2006
in Ritual

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Artist: Vampy
Studio: Vampy%27s+House
Location: Norwich%2C+UK

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