Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hell is a Lonesome Place

Hell is a lonesome place.

Dark, wet, and sticky. Smells like the ass-end of a Burger King dumpster on a hot summer's day.

My friends aren't here. This is hell.

If I had friends here it wouldn't be so bad.

The tables in hell are made from perforated metal... large holes maybe an inch across, and then dipped in some grippy plastic. The tops of the tables curve downward slightly, like they were left out in the sun just a touch too long and started to droop.

None of the chairs in hell are comfortable. They either have no backs, or they rock side to side. Find the perfect chair only to realize that the back is broken as you lean back and nearly fall. Stand up and find yourself covered in itchy pet fur, bits of torn wool and reeking of stale urine.

In hell the televisions are always on. Nothing you want to see is on... but the TV strobes in and out of your vision no matter where you look. Compelling, numbing and terrifying at the same time. The audio track fails to sync so the newscaster's voice sounds too much like a detergent commercial.

Hell's designer should be fired on the basis of creating false promises. Everywhere that should be clean is anything but. Places that should be hidden from view, you are forced to walk through. Escalators that lurch and stagger. Handrails wait with splinters and smears of mucus left behind by toddlers too young to know better.

The custodial crew in hell expect everything to be recycled. Not just the good stuff. Everything. When you line up for your meal tray, and try to catch a glimpse of the kitchen, it looks like the food was just pulled out of garbage bags and broken milk crates. It is the smell that gets you though. The same salty, hot oil... the knowing scent of fried something or other. Your mouth waters before you notice the sickly sweet smell of rancid putrification.

In hell there are no bathrooms. Never mind a long line, there are no bathrooms. And worse still, you always need to pee. Every dark corner looks appealing as a place to stop and urinate until you realize that is exactly what everyone else has done. The pain comes in waves. Nausea mixed with sheer terror at having to keep waiting for a real bathroom. There has to be a bathroom somewhere. But there isn't. Hell's plumbing was designed by a general surgeon.

All of the voices in hell combine fingers on a chalkboard with toddler wailing. The resultant reverberation makes conversations sound like the clamor of an engine room on a cruise ship. In hell, you can see the horrific waves of halitosis as people cajole one another. Eventually, even your own inner voice starts to sound like your neighbor's cat in heat at two in the morning.

In hell, your fellow travelers are the bastards who screwed up everything they touched in your life. They are the assholes who broke your heart, teased you, molested you, chose you last for games on the schoolyard. Remembering the spilled milk, torn clothes, bitter iron in your mouth mixed with salty tears and the slurping back of the snot that just won't stop running down your nose... these are the people standing next to you everywhere you go in hell.

There is no view in hell. I tried for over a year to find a place from which to see out. I looked for a window, but all the windows just led to more halls, rooms, and escalators. There is no outside in hell. Everything is wrapped up in the dusty oily resinous exhaust that builds up between the acrid cleaning sessions that happen so infrequently. Touch anything and that grime finds its way on to you with even the slightest brush. Mirrors laugh at your reflection.

I kept waiting for a phone call in hell. All of the cell phones in hell ring incessantly. Not mine. I was surprised to see that there is cell reception in hell. Probably because of AT&T. To this day, I am not sure if that call would have been a pardon or my final sentencing.

I was in hell for over a year. Trying to tell time in perpetual twilight is like vertigo for the timeline.

Next week I begin the observance of my third year since entering the coma. This story was just one of many dozens that came from that experience.

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