Ben and Linda waiting at the gates of Hell

A dialogue inspired by James Joyce's description of hell

“Hi, i’m Ben. And you’re…?”
“Nice to meet you, Linda. First time?”
“Well- yes. In Hell it’s always the first time, isn’t it? And the last.”
“Yes of course. I’m a bit nervous.”
“Me too.”
“Sinned a lot?”
“Yes i’m afraid. Mostly adultery. Also minor things, shoplifting and so on. Still wondering if some of them were real sins. Anyway, it’s too late now. Final Judgement was yesterday, no use in trying to change that, is there?”
“Uh-uh. Seemed rather definitive to me.”
“All those angels and trumpets… Must have cost a terrible lot of dough. I’m sure Frank didn’t like that part of the show at all. I once bought a dress Chez Louie, and… Well – whatever. I’m trying to leave it all behind. Emerald blue it was. Very spiritual. “My Heavenly Princess”, he called me. That was before he saw the price tag. And you, sin wise?”
“One big. Nothing else.”
“Ooowkay, it was murder. A stab in the back. Now you know. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Oh, a stab in the back. An accident. Now i understand…”
“Okay, 3 stabs, actually. The last 2 weren’t accidents. I’m telling it like it is, Linda, i’m no liar.”
“Doesn’t matter anymore darling. Murder and lies, or only murder… What difference does it make? Eternal fire is eternal fire.”
“That’s true: eternity minus a billion years still makes eternity, they say…”
“Now we’re talking. So – do correct me if i’m wrong, but – 1 stab was an accident and the 2 last were on purpose…”
“Correct. If he hadn’t started whining after that first stab, the loser, shouting i did it on purpose, which was a lie, a FILTHY LIE, THE GUY WAS…, I WILL…”
“Take it easy, Ben, take it easy…”
“Sorry, but… The wound is still bleeding, you know…”
“No, mine of course. I’m talking symbolically. It’s a symbolic wound, Linda, very deep in me. I’m hurt, you see. Here (points at his heart). Things could have taken a very different turn, you know. I’m a good man, basically. If the bastard… Well, anyway, too late i guess. We’re here now, aren’t we? Better make the best of it.”
“Yeah… I heard it stinks down there, though, and it’s supposed to be completely dark too. Forever.”
“I’ll be very open to you, Ben: it’s that ‘forever’ part i don’t like. Not at all. I never was a ‘forever’ kind of girl, you know.”
“… never married?”
“Well… yes, but… As i told you i’m in here for adultery.”
“Married once?”
“5 times. I didn’t cheat on the last one though. And he died a natural death. Choked, in a piece of steak.”
“I didn’t cook that one. It was in a restaurant in Cecina. Italy. Tyrrhenian coast. Must’ve told him 1.000 times Italians can’t cook a decent steak, but no: Fred knew everything better. Still see him in that chair: laughing and chewing and getting excited over that little Agent Provocateur something i was wearing. And then finally choking. Ever been to Volterra?”

“Volterra is beautiful. The way they carved those devils into those church doors… Oh, man… Magnificent. So realistic! It still sends shivers down my spine when i think of it.”
“Impressive. They say the walls are 4.000 miles thick down there.”
“4.000 miles? In Volterra? Nooo…”
“I don’t mean Volterra, Linda. I mean here. In hell.”
“Oh, looks like my ex has built them, then. Yes: Frank. He would build a wall, that almost tips over, and then he has to build another wall against it. Typical Frank. Clumsy clumsy clumsy. And those guys are allowed in heaven. There’s no such thing as decency anymore, Ben.”
“Maybe he can get us out?”
“Frank? Oh no. That’s the type of thing Franky boy would never do. Never. Ah the asshole. Bet he’s fooling around now with those virgins… Did you see that Saint Catherine? My, oh my. That’s by far the prettiest girl i’ve ever seen. Frank couldn’t get his eyes off her yesterday, from the first damnations on until the final trumpet blew. Never during Last Judgment i saw someone stare at a woman the way he did...”
“… wasn’t it your first Last Judgement then…?!”
“… as a figure of speech, Ben. Jesus, you take everything so literally. If i would be married to you i’d dump you for the first passer-by, you know. But really, man… You absolutely got to do something about that. Enjoy, don’t think about all those details! You should have followed that Buddhist zen course with me, in order to loosen up a bit-”
“… sorry…”
“(looks around) -not that the big Buddha seems to get us anywhere here. Seems like i’ve chosen the wrong religion after all. Bugger. … but what was i saying? Yes, - Frank. Saint-Catherine. It was embarrassing. You can’t go anywhere with that guy. If he were standing here in front of me now, at this very minute… See these nails?”
“Sharp. You’re very pretty too, actually. To be honest, i wouldn’t know who to choose, Linda: Saint Catherine, or you. Actually, never in my life i saw anyone…”
“They all are down here, darling. The pretty broads are in hell, didn’t you know? Use your brain, for once. Besides: not the place and time to start flirting, is it? We’re standing at the gates of Hell, for God’s sake.”
“… eternally.”
“No, honey, not ‘eternally’. We’ll be standing here for another 10 minutes or so, until Satan arrives. Then he puts us in there. Indeed, forever. Better enjoy the light a bit longer, won’t we?”
“Yeah. Beautiful sunset. (looks at the horizon, tears in his eyes)”
“Never was a sunset type. But yes, beautiful colours, if you like that sort of thing.”
“Sorry, Linda.” (wipes his eyes dry, then gets himself together) “Btw, they say memory stays intact.”
“Will you please shut up? Ah… that time with John… He was my third. He could have saved me. (musing) Yes… John could have done the trick… Are you telling me now i will keep on remembering John?”
“I’m afraid so, yes. They do it on purpose, Linda. (starts crying again) They say devils are jumping around, tearing at your feet and arms, and shouting things like “Remember that night in Tuscany? Beautiful scenery!” and that kind of stuff.”
“You must be kidding… That’s downright cruel.”
“That’s exactly what this place is known for, honey: eternal cruelty.”
“Well, we’ll be able to witness it with our own eyes soon, - there he is (Satan appears). ‘Here comes my man’…”
“Velvet Underground…”
“No, that’s ‘Waiting for my man’…”
“Whatever. I’m not going to spend my last minute in the sunlight arguing about a 60s record…”
“Think he’s getting impatient, Ben. Let’s go…”

(Gates of hell opening slowly, last shot, we see Ben and Linda’s backs, heads bowed they disappear, 10, 20 then hundreds of devils swarming around them, like flocks, overrunning them. The gates close again.)

(Painting 1: 'Dido brought to Hell', Georges Moreau de Tours, 1886. Painting 2: 'Virgil and Dante in Hell', William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1850. Painting 3: 'The Barque of Dante', Eugène Delacroix, 1822.)

(The dialogue has been inspired by James Joyce's 20 pages description of hell, in 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man', 1916.)

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