What would be your own personal Hell? One created with all the specifications to maximize your suffering for all eternity? Have a snake phobia? Then they are slithering all around you, always. Fear failure? Every half hour the hope of something truly wonderful blossoms and then comes crashing all around you. Afraid of dying alone? Expect to every day, only to be reborn and do it all over. It’s Hell, so no, you can’t at least have a cat.
What about a subway station where the air reeks of garbage at a stifling 98°. A street musician plays an out of tune banjo accompanying the din with an incoherent, high-pitched wail. Beaver-sized rats scuttle around the tracks, occasionally jumping up to the platform. Every bench is crammed with derelict men staring at you, hands shoved down their pants, noticeably masturbating. The train takes 50 minutes to arrive and when it finally does, a lovely looking woman (who acutely reminds you of your sister), throws herself in front of it. The train never stops. When it passes, all that remains of the woman is a streak of blood stained on the tracks.
This is the New York cliché version of Hell.
Until recently, I may have considered the above description sufficient to describe my personal Hell. That was before I survived 10 days living in the same 20 acres as the man who broke my heart. This, I discovered, is my true personal Hell.
I couldn’t escape him. He was everywhere I turned. Everywhere. I’d round a corner and there he was wearing naught but a towel, on his way to the communal showers. I’d walk into the kitchen, hear his voice, and immediately lose my appetite. One night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I became aware of a muffled sound in the otherwise silence. The moment I identified it as the faint noise of a coughing fit, I sat bolt upright, shaking. It was his cough, of course. With this came the knowledge of exactly where he was, who he was with, and what he was doing: top three on my DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT list.
You see, the ex is a smoker, of the
painfully cliché hippy variety. Over the summer I began to fully understand his level of devotion to a certain Mary Jane and began to suspect he was more committed to MJ than to me. Not surprisingly, this became a point of contention. There is no mincing words: dude smokes habitually. Here’s the funny thing: despite the frequency, every inhale he takes sends him into a fit of coughing. That is why I knew exactly what was going on. That is why this was Hell. I sat in bed, tempted to jump up and scream out my window, “I CAN HEAR YOU COUGHING AS I LIE IN BED. I NEED SLEEP, I’M MENDING A BROKEN HEART HERE. THIS IS THE LAST THING I NEED RIGHT NOW. SHUT THE FUCK UP.” Instead I took some meditative breaths, put in head phones, and let Belle and Sebastian lull me to sleep.
I made it through, made it through Hell. My amazing friends kept me from having an emotional break down. Professionally, I was a rock star. My personal life blown to Hell, being able to escape for hours into the life of a character was incredibly freeing. A perk of being a professional actor. I threw myself into each performance with everything I had. The result was some of the best work I’ve ever done. No one would have guessed, not in a million years, the heartache I was hiding. I gotta admit, I’m pretty proud of this.
On the last day we had the “Closure Talk”. It didn’t exactly make me feel better, but do they ever? I left knowing what I’ve always known, never doubted: I am strong, I will get through this. “His loss,” as so many say. I survived Hell.
I left Hell and went straight to Purgatory. Purgatory is working 12 days non-stop at the New York State Fair. I’ll tell you all about Purgatory tomorrow.