Monday, July 24, 2006

Lifeguard of the Black Beach of Hell

Unable and powerless to circumvent my miseries, daunted, discouraged and unable to face reality alone, now that she had left, I drew upon my last resources; my will, however, was poisoned, I had no strong figures to identify with, I had no pride in myself and from my own people I could only expect disgust and disappointment; I was alone and desolate, with no one to draw upon; perhaps worst of all I had come to despise my only virtues: my intelligence, good humor and sense of obligation filled me with disgust; they were not enough to keep her (no, quite the opposite, I thought) so I deemed them unfit to keep me alive. I had a simple choice, I could give up love or give up living and so, drunk with so many things, but mainly pain, I thought it brave, so very brave and rare to choose the latter and died.

For my many crimes, my lack of shrift, pilfered cheeses and incomplete papers, I was sent to Hell. And on that sunless shore I became a lifeguard.

Hell is very different than the living imagine, except that it is hellish. There are a surprising number of children. And the sort of lines you'd expect.

Hell, like the army or the bursar's office, has its own logic and way of doing things. You begin with a series of interviews, which are off-putting to say the least. It’s probably for the best, people carry on in the worst way just lining up. The questions are really unexpected and there are a lot of them. Many people try and use the interview to their advantage, thinking that if they say they love loud noises, they’ll be put somewhere quiet, or be given steak if they say they are vegetarian. There is no advantage: this is Hell.

Most of the dammed feel relieved. Those that don’t are a pain in the ass.

My personal disappointment was the lack of answers. Here, too, God is silent; the Devil is loquacious and equivocal.

I express that I thought the soul was a metaphor: “A metaphor for what?” is the reply.

One day I am simply given some black, black swim trunks and a whistle that sounds like a Stuka dive bomber. More: in life I was bespectacled and bookish and at best a poor swimmer. In Hell I was given a firm and powerful swimmer’s build, with a swelling chest, keen eyes and a permanent erection. I try to understand what has happened, to fathom my sentence. I am only told that it was never about punishment, or reward. That was a story for simpletons and children, those who needed it. Not in the previous world, either they say. Or the next.

The thing about Hell, though, is that nobody is what you would call “credible”.

Literary work that most accurately portrays Hell: Une Saison en Enfer, Rimbaud.

Hell is also other people. And their dogs.

Hell has several bodies of water, some of them quite immense, even if frozen, so there is some need for lifeguards. Infernally, in some cases the job of the lifeguard is to prevent the damned soul from rising to the surface, but usually we mind the shores for the same reasons as above. We have to be trained in CPR, mouth-to-mouth and Gregg’s or the Pitman Method. In Hell, mouth-to-mouth is always done inappropriately and for the worst of reasons. For this reason we have permanent erections. It is not unusual to see a gang of lifeguards descending on some poor soul. This is Hell.

I sit in the lifeguard chair, under a black sky that burns bright with no light, but darkness visible, the reverse sunscreen blacking out my nose making me look like a skull. Perhaps I am, I haven’t looked. In my high chair I am relaxed and vigilant, at ease with my naked muscles and erection, cooly cruel beneath my long hair, flicking the ashes of my cigarette on the naked pale narrow shoulders of the dammed as they are dragged by on the barge. I sit above them, as though in judgement, and the new souls do not realize that this is as much judgement as they are likely to receive in Hell. Or I do so in reflection, if I am, in an infernal manner, stationed at the bottom of the river, glaring at the bottom of the barge, seeing their woeful eyes seek out their own reflection in that blackest of waters.

There is beer, but the beer is not cold.
There is no recycling.

After work I usually drive an awesome muscle car to a local bar. I do not know what it is called, only that it has an enormous engine that sounds like a growling bomber wing impatient to take off. It was apparently so cool when first designed that it never went into production. It went straight to Hell. The Devil himself drove one for a while, until he wrapped his around a Christmas display. Yes, Christmas is celebrated in Hell. It is celebrated year-round. This is one of the ways you know you are in Hell. Of course, nobody calls it Christmas. They just say “Happy Holidays” and then they stab you with a corkscrew.

The bars in Hell are a fairly rough scene. There usually isn’t ice, and so the bartenders tend to fill your glass with bits of jagged glass. Many people opt for beer, though it isn’t cold and is only jagged glass.

Karaoke: about the same. The words tend to scroll a little faster and are hard to read, as in a dream. Sometimes you look up and your high school music teacher is there. Naked and masturbating.

On the karaoke screen, the words crawl over each other like voices in one's head. The words may seem different, transposed and wrong, depending on the song. For songs that originated in Hell, or from artists whose souls were bought, these are the true lyrics, which on earth are sung backwards. This basically covers most Rock n'Roll.

Drinks: expensive. You might as well get top shelf. I cannot even begin to talk about the well-brands here.

Even though I am a lifeguard, I find myself at the beach a lot. Here’s what I like to do: I find some scrawny kid with his date sitting on a blanket. I stroll on up to him and kick sand in his eyes, causing him to drop his copy of Schopenhauer. Then I ridicule his scrawniness and his lack of faith in German Idealism. I smack him around a bit. I make fun of his poor French. Finally, I rip off his trunks and shove them in his mouth. I walk off with his girl on my arm, laughing. Or, I like to find some kids and help them make a kite.

I am the lifeguard of the black beach of Hell, the sand that is all pumice and bones, the tide that is stinging remorse, the wind that is screaming, screaming, and the eternal sunset that is the glory of pride, Hell’s emblem.

film adaptation: The Surf Inside Me

The Encouraging Voice of the Labyrinth is the journal that takes you places without return.

TURN #72: WEEK 58; WORDS: 63,943