Welcome to Hell

Hell is good. To live here, it is good. I really like it! It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s the crowning joy of my life to exist in Hell. It’s amazing. It’s so sweet and charming. It’s perfectly delightful. Maybe that shocks you. That’s OK. You’ll have to learn to deal with it. Because I’m not going to lie to you—in fact, I can’t. I can’t do it! It’s just not in me. Lying offends my finely honed sense of integrity, my absolute belief in the truthful expression of one’s passions. Honesty is the bedrock of my character. And it’s not just temperamental! It’s physical as well. If I try to lie, I get all worked up: I shake, and I start to hyperventilate and sweat; I break out into hives; my mouth goes itchy and dry; my joints ache; my palms get clammy and I begin to have diarrhea, and I can’t stop having diarrhea until I’m able to say something truthful. I’ll have diarrhea for hours—once I had diarrhea for a whole week. The diarrhea goes on and on until I can find a way to utter at least one genuine and correct phrase, something inarguable, like “the sun is hot,” or “the sea is vast,” or “Hell is a super rad spot full of amazing fun where you can really cut loose and be yourself.” So believe me when I say that I’m not going to sit here and make up some story about how I hate Hell. I’m not going to fake a lecture about how Hell is actually not a really excellent place to be. I know that’s what some people want to hear, but, whatever, that’s too bad. I don’t care what they want. I’m not their flunkey. I won’t grovel after their approval, those self-absorbed, Hell-hating elitists. What have they ever done for me? What arguments have they made to convince me, for even a single second, of the preposterous idea that I should give up my beloved amity with Hell? They can go fuck themselves! I don’t need them. I have Hell. I have this beautiful Hell that I live in, that I sleep in. I have Hell to hold me tight, to keep me warm. It calms me, Hell. It relaxes me, my beautiful Hell, my soft, beautiful nest of Hell. I love you, Hell. You’re like a nuzzle to my chest. You’re like a brume of dew upon my brow, a swirl of cinnamon in my milk. My spirits are lifted just by describing your munificence. I could go on: Hell, you are like the gentle scent of a lamb laying down in the cool green grass; you are like the last few fatigued breaths at the end of a long day, before the kind drift of sleep overtakes me. Hell is kind. Hell is bountiful. Just try and argue with me—just try and tell me otherwise! You think you know something I don’t? You think you’re going to spring on me an unassailable proof that devastates my case and sends me spinning into melodramatic spasms of self-doubt? “Hell is not good. You should not live in Hell.” Oh, wow, what a fresh perspective! What a novel hypothesis! You must have really dug deep for that one. Please, tell me more, enlighten me. “Hell is a rancid place of fear where terrible accidents are never far from befalling one’s children.” You think I don’t know? You think you’re the first person to push that on me? That there isn’t always, every day, that moment in the middle of breakfast, that ghastly moment, just as I’m about to shovel one last dense corner of toasted bread into my mouth, when some joker smashes their face through the window above my sink to vociferate righteously about the failure of Hell to “provide adequate housing that conforms to code while remaining tastefully in-context with the surrounding neighborhood’s architectural profile?” Or about Hell’s reluctance to “attract visionary entrepreneurs willing to invest in unique and quirky local businesses,” or to “lobby for stricter parking laws that give the streets a more open, inviting feel,” or to “institute school choice programs that give parents the resources to choose the education experience that best fits their child’s needs,” or to “investigate public/private partnerships that secure much-needed funding for the repair and maintenance of our neighborhood’s communal spaces, in exchange for the reasonable assurance that the interests of the private parties will be upheld in the rules governing the operation of those spaces,” or to “finally give our police the permission to crack down on those unsavory elements whose misanthropy has, for far too long, held the neighborhood back from fulfilling its true potential, so that we can finally show the world the kind of value that exists here”—they go on, their jaw gumming out this litany. Their bloodied face swings to and fro. Their eye, slashed, deflates in its socket. Glass flecks dislodge from where they’d broken off in their cheek, in their eyebrow, in their forehead, to plink against my kitchen tiles while their voice, hoarse by now, rambles on with an especially impassioned defense of our two party electoral system as a modulating dialectic that prevents any one ideology from dominating the whole of society, therefore providing a fertile middle ground upon which progressive political development can take root and naturally flower at a pace that reflects the complexities of our diverse citizenry. It’s disgusting. They’re so loud. They’re going to freak out my neighbors. Plus they’re getting blood everywhere. They’re fucking up the clean dishes drying on the rack. I’m going to have to wash them all over again. I’m going to have to sweep up the broken glass and scraps of skin, and get this place into some semblance of shape before I have to leave for work, which I’m already late for after having spent the last twenty minutes listening to this bullshit. And then, on top of everything else, I’m going to have to get the window fixed. I’m going to have to call my landlord and explain that “it” happened again, “that thing with the window,” which, even though it isn’t my fault, is still for them an imposition, which imperils the stability of my lease because it creates in their mind an association between me, living in the apartment, and the semi-regular occurrence of someone smashing their face through the kitchen window and screaming at the top of their lungs. This is not an association you want your landlord to have. It gets them into “problem solving mode,” which is dangerous because of the supremely degraded set of incentives a landlord’s reality rests upon. Before you know it, they’re calling you back, they’re saying “hey, look, that’s a real bummer. I’ll get someone over there to take care of it right away. But I think maybe this whole situation might require something more than just a quick fix, you know? Something more than just a new window and, ta-da, that’s it. This might be a sign that it’s time to modernize the whole rig—a new airtight, state-of-the-art frame for the window, impenetrable locking system, double-thick sound-cancelling security glass. You’ll love it. It’ll be great. And while we’re at it, maybe we can start knocking out some of these other projects I’ve had kicking around in my noggin, in my astute landlord brain. We could look into remodeling the kitchen, for one: new appliances, granite countertops, some bonkers-ass tile splashback. The works. Let me talk with my contractor and then I’ll get back to you. Of course, these improvements will have to be reflected in a renegotiated agreement between the two of us. It wouldn’t be fair for me to bear the costs of this maintenance and not, in turn, be given the opportunity to recoup my expenses through a modest increase in allowable rent. Nothing too extravagant, I promise you. Just enough to cover the hugely significant cosmetic overhaul I’m about to rain down on your miserable head, plus all of the shoddy and incomplete infrastructural improvements that will have to happen simultaneously. Speaking of which: you’ll have to let the contractors come in and work on all of that at a time that’s most convenient for them per the agreement that we developed entirely without your input. Because they’ve got other things to do. They’ve got other kitchens to update. They’re busy guys—everyone wants them for a kitchen update. We’re lucky, I’m telling you. Charmed. You should count yourself lucky. I’m doing you a damn favor here. When it’s 4 a.m. and the doorbell rings, and you let these guys in and they start jack-hammering into your floor and throwing fixtures and appliances around, filling the air with dust, debris, and the smell of scorched wood and gas, you should be lying there in bed, just taking in the experience. Because that’s living, man! That’s life: your landlord’s contractor ripping your kitchen to shreds, hours before you have to get up for work. I’m sure you understand. I’m sure you get it, right? It’s all good, right? It’s all cool, yeah? We’re good, yeah? We’re copacetic, right? We’re on the same page, yeah? We see each other, yeah? Eye to eye? Eye to fucking eye? Hell yeah we do. Hell yeah, brother. Hell yeah, we do. Hell fucking yeah. Hell fucking yeah. Hell yeah.”

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Josef Kaplan

Josef Kaplan is the author, most recently, of Poem Without Suffering (Wonder). His new book, Loser, is forthcoming from Les Figues Press in 2019.