I haven’t known how to write this, because the truth is in context, and the context is hard. Necessary. Relevant. Vulnerable. Messy. Insanely, poignantly, unmistakably human.
And violent. So much violence.
“Embrace the violence of it,” he said to me almost a year ago, as my hand held a small gauge needle and prepared to push it through someone else’s skin.
I said the words over and over, hoping it would make them real: “I’m doing a hook suspension on Sunday,” I said with an appropriate level of trepidation, but the words felt hollow. Distant from a thing I was going to put my body through. I said the words, but it didn’t make them real. I couldn’t picture the sensations in my body, and when I can’t envision it, I can’t accept it.
And so I watched, over and over. I watched hooks going in and people going up. I watched until I felt like I could understand the process I was going to go through, piecing parts of each suspension together until I could recognize the beginnings of my own. And pieces of what needed to happen began to fall into place.
“He speaks to me about violence and uses it correctly,” she tells me and I smile, remembering. “Yes he does.”
The day before I was set to fly, I watched a friend go up for the first time and his partner holding space to help him get into the air. I hadn’t decided who that would be for me, or if I even wanted that. But watching them, a name popped into my mind, the most obvious person to hold that space with me. The only person who could.
I was more afraid to ask that question than I can express, and achingly relieved when he said yes.
“You are too violent.” The words hit me at the core of deeply held fears, simultaneously true and not-true. I am too violent, but not in this moment, not in these ways and yet, it needed to be said, the reality of being too much finally externalized.
In some ways, it was a relief. Someone finally said it, and I carried it with me in my gut in a visceral way. Cascading emotions, the first time in a long time someone has said the first half of that haunting phrase out loud.
Too much. Not enough.
The other half was already itching under my skin.
And so I had to tell him. Dispassionate at first, callous, separated off from the enormity of what I was feeling. And then slowly, seeping in. Heavy tears I didn’t have the energy to fight. Four hours of sleep and bone-weary, spent on emotional outpouring with no resolution. I had to put it down and carry the weight of it simultaneously.
Sobbing. Heavy thuds raining unexpectedly onto my back, doubled over, arms circling my body. I was ready, even if I wasn’t prepared. Even if I didn’t have a clue what I was walking into, what I would find at the top of that hill, I was as ready as I was going to be.
Is this what it feels like to walk willingly to one’s own execution? Here, in the midst of violence, there is an unearthly sense of peace.
And so I cleaned the hooks of my partner’s blood with cavicide. And I walked to the table, a lamb to slaughter, and held still while they pinched and marked my back. And I then laid on the table in the blazing sun and waited, faces swimming in and through my vision, one sharper and clearer than the others.
Stay present for it.
Hands holding my head through the deep breaths, two sets of hands on either side, one gloved, one not, familiar hands on my feet. Just breathe. A compass of bodies, a frozen arrow. White hot, sharp pain, words in my ear holding me to the ground, and the first set of hooks were in.
I couldn’t have done the second without him.
Words strung taut on a golden line in the space between his lips and the edge of the needle, and I screamed through the pain, clinging to a strand of light that hung like an anchor, holding me in place. And then, done.
This was as far as I knew how to prepare. Whatever comes next is unknown. There are so many people watching me step into something unknown. The raw vulnerability alone should have shaken me, but all I can see is him.
As they strung the hooks to the rig, he stood in front of me. Smiling gently, knowing the hardest part was both over and yet to come.
“I need you to help me fly,” I whispered.
“When the time comes, you won’t,” he answered.
Too much. Not enough. The whole of myself strung out in the sunlight, a phoenix afraid of its wings.
“There is no one here you can hurt,” he whispered, and I cracked then and there, keeping the sobs from wracking through my shoulders where the lines were pulling taut. He touched my face.
“There is no one here you can hurt.”
And when it came time to fly, my feet couldn’t leave the ground, but found purchase in the bark of his treeskin stretching to the sky, and I climbed the branches of his arms and clung to the trunk of his hips with my legs, whispering, “I can’t… I can’t.”
“You already are,” he said, and my muscles began to unclench, slowly, the weight of his hands lessening, the pressure of his skin removed from mine until the burning in my back subsided, and my legs moved through the air, suspended on metallic wings sharp and clear in the sun.
Too much. Not enough.
“You are exactly enough,” she says. And he whispers again, “There is no one here you can hurt.” And then there was just me, flying up to the rafters, a body floating, dancing, losing the ground for the glory of the sky.
And there, in the sky, in the blazing heat of the sun and sharp metal of temporary wings, my heart flooded in glorious relief at the truth I could only find there: I am too violent, and it is exactly enough. And so I closed my eyes and danced in the sky.