I visited the hell of the brokenhearted- A adaptation of Dante’s Inferno

A young man visits hell for those that never recovered from a broken heart and those that are scared to tell someone they want to be loved by them. Souls that never recovered from their broken hearts walk with drooped shoulders in a single file line through burning sands and those that were unable to express their love hang suspended by trees with a cord wrapped around their chest.

I am sweating from the heat of shifting and moving every few moments I oscillate between covers on my body and throwing the covers off. I was being held in by the memories of all my mistakes and the steps that lead to this sleepless night. I clenched my teeth, twisted from side to side grabbing onto the blankets for support. In my twisting and sweating I began to grow angry silently screaming that I will commit myself to never loving again, I will never give anyone my heart, no one shall ever see me cry. I will curse all vulnerability and slap every hand that reaches out to touch me. Between sleeping and waking I imagine myself in a desert chained deep into the sand while vultures wait for me to shut my eyes to strike. I have nowhere to go the chains are to strong, my body to weak, I begin to recite a prayer I would say with my grandmother, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guard me Jesus, through the night, And wake me with the morning light.” I have no release, and these are the sentiments I screamed before craving another body so deeply that I reached down and touched the sweat produced around my sex. My heart began to beat faster as my chin lifted and my mouth opened as the desire to release that energy inside me could only be expelled the one way I knew. I craved the moment before the orgasm when your arms are tingling and everything starts moving slow and you have forgotten everything weighing you down. This helped me fall asleep, helped me forget I was craving someone all night. As I was falling asleep I remembered something my father once told me, “ A man that cannot love, is unable to live, and a man that can not live might as well be dead.” As my eyes set on this night, I heard a lighting bolt strike the sky and I began to dream but this was a nightmare. I felt myself being pulled down by powerful hands into the bed with so much strength I was unable to fight back and I was taken under.

My back slammed against the ground into darkness with the only light coming from the shadows of flames from far away, my body was paralyzed, I was brought to a space seemingly split in half by a road whose distance was so far I could not see the end. My eyebrows twitched as I looked from side to side at the world I’ve fallen. On one side shadows of people chained together from the ankles and throats limped together while looking down taking steps in unison to prevent from falling. The necks of these souls were so extended that they only knew to walk forward by the movement of the person ahead of them. Their feet were peeling and looked like they were being pulled into the ground, only with much force could they keep themselves from falling into doom forever. The chains were rusted silver with spikes coming out around the neck. My stomach began to get queasy from all the pain and I slowly turned my head to see bodies hung from dilapidated trees with chains piercing the center of their chest. They looked almost like they were being lifted by a vortex but their place was frozen. I could hear them wailing their fingers twitching with every tear that fell, but they remained suspended the chains never shifted or gave into the shuddering of their frail bodies. You can hear the cursing of unrecognizable names on the left and the whimpering laments as tears burned their face and hit the ground underneath. I looked around at the condition of these damned souls with compassion and great pity. With great fear and haste I began walking to find a way through this hell. As I moved closer towards the shadows I gained a closer look at the varied condition of these tormented souls. On the left were chain walkers cursing names I could not make out picking at the skin on their bodies until black oil leaked where scars should be and on the right chains not only pierced their chest but were gripped around their frail bodies so tight you could see their heart beat through their skin. I watched this scene with horror but looking through the crowd on the left I noticed the features of someone dear, a soul I believed I would never see again. It was my father, Antonio Sr, on the left side walking among the cursing and downtrodden except he seemed silent. He noticed me and a deep look of relief then shame flooded his face and my compassion turned my gut inside out. I watched as he slowly trudged his way towards me with his head lowered. In that moment my heart began to beat so fast I did not notice I was crying. I wanted to embrace him as a child would a father but the shadow of his body only gave us the chance to lock eyes.

I am forever connected to this floating plasm, I am flesh of his flesh, sin or his sin. I began to think deeply on the life of this man that was my God while he lived. A child never thinks about the hopes, fears and failures of their parents until they attempt to become an adult and suffer the same demons. Often times parents try to hint at those demons that scarred their hearts, but a child’s ignorance prevents him from making the impossible attempt to understand. Hearing them say, “Alright, life is not going to take it easy on you”, but one day in the process of becoming an adult often times alone, or when you begin to fall in love or your first fight with your lover. You realize living is much more complicated than all the romance movies, Tv shows, Soap operas and Highschool dramas polluting your mind. Maybe fortunately, my father, he died before having the chance to see those same demons attempt to shut me off from the world. Before Satan's angels walked with me into every friendship, every bed and every love as they did for him. He moved through the world with no guide, no map and a terrible launching pad to journey through life. My father lost his mother when he was a little younger than when I lost him. This loss was his first heartbreak and he never quite recovered. It is difficult for someone to supplement the love of a mother and the attempt to solve problems materially never fill the void. Love is elusive and comes when it is least expected, but so does death. When a child learns about temporality at that age it trickles into every potential love. The capacity to love someone beside yourself becomes untrusted. My father went to sleep and never rose for the universal morning roll call. Maybe the same will happen to me tonight.

My face hardened as I struggled to speak to my father there was so much I have wanted to say, but seem unable to deliver. I never realized how little we spoke until death cut off communication between us. I have never had more questions for my father than when he was being lowered into the dirt. My father and I needed each other but shame kept us from learning humility which means we could never approach one another. We both possessed the human limitation of pushing death to the back of our minds. This paralysis of the tongue was recognized by the looks we shared with each other, and I have never wanted to hug him more. He spoke to me with great grief, “Please son it is I who sent for you to come to the depths of this forsaken abode I heard your cries and this is the fortune of those that live loveless”. I responded,“ I am tired and my heart is weak but my exclamation before I slept was merely a catharsis of repressed emotion like a child that is unable to hold back the urine in his bladder.” He explained to me that even after death he is still my father and the only thing that eases his pain is hope that I never share the same fate as him. So I listened and he said I was brought into the hell of the brokenhearted to never utter those words again, because with ever movement the tongue makes a mark on the heart. I must allow my heart to feel pain and be accepting of everything good and bad. So I accepted his proposal and decided to allow him to be my guiding light through this dark world.

He explained the world around us with patience and purpose, “On the left this hell is for those wandering souls that suffered the ache of a brokenheart and never again let someone love them. None of them recovered from heartbreak and while on earth vowed to never love again, most died immediately after the vow. This invulnerability is so paralyzing and deeply crippling that they end up living out this hell forever cursing the names of those that hurt them. Walking aimlessly with no water or nourishment and scars of sadness written across the face.” Looking to the left I seen everything I could become and the faces of eternal pain reminded me of the ones I see up above. My heart wept for the souls of everyone in this state.

He continued, “ On the right you have souls suspended from a cord wrapped around their chest replaying the thoughts of every unrequited love and misstep that made them more soft-spoken as time passed. These souls while falling in love never opened their mouths to the possibility of love. They did not fight for love they gave up putting in the effort even though their hearts yearned for another. So now they hang suspended from a tree with no chance of ever coming down. These souls never stop crying as they swing from the cords, their tears and wails are so loud their are moments of silence to catch their breathe.” I have seen many perish from never expressing their desire to the person they love. The impossibility of willing away your love for someone many choose to suppress the desire and erratically distract themselves from their aching hearts. I have seen people put tarot cards, shamans, the alignment of the stars, the fullness of the moon and pure busyness over the sound coming from their own hearts. We all often attempt to reorient ourselves after heartbreak to shift from the pain but these souls never took the chance to experience the beauty of heartbreak.

I ask my father can I approach the souls of the people on the right to gain wisdom from their fate. He says, “Yes, and listen carefully because their fate is also yours if you cut the connection between your tongue and heart." I approached a soul hanging from the tree and asked could he give me guiding wisdom for my return to earth. His eyes tilted towards me with great grief and because of the short distance I could see the burned tears rolling from his face. I kept a good distance to prevent the tears from burning my skin. In the silence between tears he spoke, “I wanted her to know I can live without her but I would rather not live without her. I wanted her to know that I loved her in the way when music is playing it causes you to get quiet and close your eyes, so you can feel it throughout your body. I have experienced heartbreak before and I wasn't willing to experience it again. When I closed my mouth vowing to never let a word utter that could cause me pain my insides began to swell like a balloon every time I decided to not to express my love, my heart slowly began to fail and my chest started slowly eating away at itself. The fear and pain were to great for me to reach paradise. She wouldn't have loved me anyway I told myself so I decided to never speak to her again, I was terrified that I couldn't be loved if I was seen as imperfect. I confused force with effort, I told myself if anything was forced it must not be worth the time, for real love was effortless, HA!, how foolish of me. Now because of my foolishness I live out my greatest fear for eternity.”

Listening to this soul that had a face very similar to mine speak on his suffering caused me deep reflection and tears to fall from my eyes. To love is to be expressive and vulnerable opening up your heart and mouth to the possibilities of multiple realities. Multiple realities, I believe, are fact in a life of choices, and with the choice to give your heart brings the blessing of two realities. The one we want but never really expect and the one we all know to well. Whichever path fate chooses their is beauty in expressing the contents of the heart and it prepares us for a new chapter and opportunity. There is a saying, “Closed mouths do not get fed, and that is true in love as well.” Abruptly, my father broke my reflection asking me do I wish to journey to the other side. I took one last look at the hanging soul and said, “Yes”.

We began our short walk to the other side of where my father came from and again he told me I can walk to any soul and ask for wisdom. I looked at the scars his face carried and asked for him to be the provider of wisdom since he spent time on this side of the trudging sufferers. He paused for a time that seemed like eternity nodded and began to speak, “This side is for those that are unable to recover from a broken heart, this desert is not only reserved for those caused by lovers, but brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends. There is nothing wrong with being heartbroken but when you allow that experience to close you up and never let anyone into your private inner space that is when the trouble begins. Your grow angry and resentful carrying that burden to every new face and opportunity. Long before your death you grow cold and spontaneity becomes a vice, the world a narcissistic reflection of your heartbreak. You began to curse the one that hurt you long after you are even able to call them. Everyone you meet reminds you of them and you hate them because they are not them. Once your heart is closed your humanity is closed.”

When he finished speaking I began to reflect on the difficulties of the heart and the fortitude of the human spirit required to overcome the loneliness of the broken heart. Bitterness has bubbled up in me like a pot put on the stove for too long and dreams of being shot in the chest have filled my night. Terrors while I slept of my heart being ripped from my body and feasted on by ravenous dogs while I watch in helpless agony. Life will be difficult for everyone that lives under the sun. Pain is not a curse even though it often feels eternal but within it you have a beauty that needs to be deciphered. A broken heart has the ability to make you lose your sensitivity to new experiences being unable to articulate the pain can make it hard to escape. There is a ocean between the danger of this condition being eternal and your rebirth but one must learn to swim someday.

The shadow of my father looked at me and said, “Have you learned anything in your time down here?” I responded, “ I am learning to love, which means I will stumble into the fear of never having someone next to me. However love must become my art that requires me to find a sense of recalibration when I lose my footing. I would often believe if I bended, twisted, or adjusted myself a certain way I would keep someone close to me. That is not love, only a narcissistically naïve delusion of the ego to keep from accepting the fact that they have no desire to be in my life. I learned there is a thin line between effort and force within a relationship that depends on both people accepting responsibility to keep the union alive. Someone saying the timing isn't right is merely a anesthesia, what they are saying is they are not willing to make the choice to love you right now. The Edenic fantasy of love and relationships never existed it was all merely a mirage, hopeful momentary escape from the isolation of our pain and suffering. We are on the planet to love and create, which requires we take responsibility for the expression of our heart. We have to learn where our responsibility ends and begins. You can not will someone into loving you, and very importantly do not be to busy for love. Love over Profit, your LLC is not more important that human connection.”

Suddenly I woke up in a sweat but with a cool feeling of ease around my aura. I touched my heart and began to cry into my pillows then I started praying.

I pray for peace and understanding that love allows me to accept life and death

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Tony Mcdonald

Dedicated to the improvement of the human spirit, and giving readers the courage to keep the fight through story telling. If we can face ourselves, we can love.