In 2002, a deaf friend came for a visit and stayed with me in Vancouver. During that time, the roll of film that I had dropped off at the drugstore a few days earlier had been printed and was ready for pick-up. (The excitement of seeing your photo prints has been taken from us since the popularization of digital cameras.) I wasted no time and dragged my guest to the drugstore. We sat on the curb out front to look through the photos, but before I opened the envelope, I warned her that the images were not for the faint of heart.
She’s one my best friends. Surely she’d approach this with an open mind, I thought.
“What the fuck?!” was her response.
I had considered writing about the experience on my blog (RIP lkvy.com 2000-2009) until my friend reacted the way she did.
Then, in 2010, another deaf friend and I were discussing his ten-day solo trip through the Peruvian jungle where he did ayahuasca for, like, five days straight.
“This is the most hardcore thing any of my friends have done,” I said.
“You did a suspension! That’s fucking bad ass!”
Wow, the deaf grapevine is powerful. I don’t think the friend I told and Mr. Ayahuasca even knew each other. She likely mentioned it to somebody else, and it went from there.
To complicate things, the suspension took place two years after the movie The Cell was released. The Cell is a futuristic JLo movie that nobody remembers anything about other than the scene where Vincent D’Onofrio’s character is hoisted in the air with rings through his back. It is a disturbing scene, mostly because the character was about to fuck a corpse.
Was this the image that popped in people’s heads when the rumour reached them? Even though Mr. Ayahuasca knew about it, I redirected the conversation back to Mother Ayahuasca, and that was the end of it. I didn’t trust him to do a follow-up report with whoever spread the gossip. I didn’t have a blog anymore, and I had written about it for another website.
I was 18 when I did the suspension. At that age, I had never gotten drunk or been stoned. I had black hair, wore rainbow-themed clothes, and had a pair of maroon fleece pants from Modrobes, which I called my Santa Pants. I could say I was a different person back then, but that is a lie: I just had an even worse wardrobe than I do now.
How did it happen?
While Zuckerberg was still coding what would become Facebook, I inadvertently joined a social networking site called IAM.
I made the mistake of getting my ears pierced. Having parents that didn’t like piercings meant I had to wait until I moved out to get my ears done. I had accompanied several friends to piercing shops where they’d get assorted body parts (mostly the eyebrow) poked with a hypodermic needle. The people who worked there called themselves professional body piercers; they had body parts I didn’t know could be pierced, pierced. The jewelry selection at these shops was much nicer than the gaudy crap I’d seen at Ardene and Claire’s. My inclination for responsibility led me to research piercing methods online, which is how I stumbled upon BME.
My ears were done at a place called Mac’s Leather and Hot Holes on Granville Street in Vancouver. The atmosphere at that shop was a bit off-putting, but I wasn’t about to let a teenager shoot a stud through my ears with a plastic gun. My hot holes were merely a pair of 10 gauge hoops through my earlobes. I submitted a few webcam photos of my adorned deaf ears to BME and was rewarded with access to their online community: IAM.
“Let’s see what this is all about.”
IAM operated similarly to modern social networking sites: you’d have a homepage where you could share your photos and thoughts. You could lurk people, and send them DMs.
I remember one of my first DMs: “Hello neighbour.” It was from a heavily tattooed floppy-eared lady with synthetic braid extensions who lived in North Vancouver. I think she meant to be creepy, but it didn’t work. (I met her two years later when she was living in Victoria and became her roommate that same week.)
It didn’t matter that I was one of the most vanilla looking people on IAM, my friend list grew fast. For the first and only time in my life, I achieved online popularity. Many of my buddies on there had done a suspension, wrote about their experience and shared photos. Like my guest in Vancouver, “What the fuck?” was my initial reaction, but unlike her, I wanted to know more.
I am also fascinated by Ayahuasca, but I don’t see myself being bold enough to shift my consciousness to another dimension. Doing a suspension wasn’t on my radar either until the IAM Vancouver community organized a one-night event and recruited two guys from Ontario with suspension experience. Now the opportunity was there. The only thing I’d be risking was being shunned by my family and old friends, but they were already kind of doing that.
Fuck it, sign me up.
In less than a year I went from getting my ears pierced to having ten eight gauge hooks temporarily inserted through my skin. This was literally a calculated decision: at the time I weighed about 130 pounds, meaning each hook would support an average of 13 pounds. The skin is an incredibly resilient organ, even with just four hooks through the upper back, it is unlikely to tear, but I was being sensible.
By playing it safe, though, I had to go through an intense piercing session. Six hooks were placed in my back and four more at the back of my legs. I wasn’t surprised it hurt, but it made the rip of each eight gauge needle no less of a shock.
When it was my turn to suspend, the brothers had me lie face-down across a metal table. The cord was laced through the eyelets of the hooks on my back and strung through a rig. The rig was then slowly lifted in the air, stretching my skin while my body remained on the table.
“Are you okay?”
The rope needed to be taken in some more before I was fully lifted off the table.
At last, I was in the air, under the influence of adrenaline!
People go to extremes for an adrenaline rush all the time. Skydiving and bungee jumping are common Bucket List items. First-time skydivers pay extra for footage of themselves throwing the devil’s horn while in a free fall tethered to a professional skydiver. Sure, the guts required to jump out of an airplane is worthy of high-fives, but how did this become a desirable human experience, much less a normal one?
This was some underground shit I was doing.
My outfit choice of the evening was a black sports bra and hot pink floral print board shorts. The Cell wouldn’t have had the same shock value had D’Onofrio’s character dressed the same way. After a few minutes had passed, I got comfortable enough to start swinging around. I asked to come down after about 45 minutes, knowing that the others were waiting for their turn.
Returning to earth gave my skin the sensation of melting. The hooks were taken out, and the punctured areas were massaged to remove the air bubbles that had formed underneath my skin.
I was very sore the next day, feeling as if I had done a high-intensity full-body workout. The air that was still trapped under my skin crackled like rice crispies when I pushed on the areas where the hooks had been. (I may have traumatized my friend more by getting her to feel the rice crispies.)
The experience left me with a pattern of 20 unusually uniform pockmarks along my back and legs, but nobody ever questioned them. Nowadays, these scars are barely visible.
It was an otherworldly experience. It was one of the few positive experiences I had during what I’d say was the most difficult year of my life. The one regret I have is leaving a written record of my experience on BME and nowhere else. At this point, it’s buried so deep among thousands of other stories that it’s unlikely I’d ever get to read it again.
I left the community when IAM became a paid site, and I moved to Calgary. I could do another suspension if I wanted to, but once was enough. Anyway, it wouldn’t be the same now that I’m no longer a part of the community.
Although it has yet to reach the mainstream, body suspensions are now more accessible. If you’re in Vancouver, and keen, Russ Foxx does them with The RISE Suspension Crew. The rest of you can google!