Chapter 26

IN MY FATHER'S house are many mansions. Of course, when I pulled the trigger, I died.
And Tyler died.
With the police helicopters thundering toward us, and Marla and all the support group people who couldn't save themselves, with all of them trying to save me, I had to pull the trigger.
This was better than real life.
And your one perfect moment won't last forever.
Everything in heaven is white on white.
Everything in heaven is quiet, rubber-soled shoes.
I can sleep in heaven.
People write to me in heaven and tell me I'm remembered. That I'm their hero. I'll get better.
The angels here are the Old Testament kind, legions and lieutenants, a heavenly host who works in shifts, days, swing. Graveyard. They bring you your meals on a tray with a paper cup of meds. The Valley of the Dolls playset.
I've met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks me, "Why?"
Why did I cause so much pain?
Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?
Can't I see how we're all manifestations of love?
I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God's got this all wrong.
We are not special.
We are not crap or trash, either.
We just are.
We just are, and what happens just happens.
And God says, "No, that's not right."
Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can't teach God anything.
God asks me what I remember.
I remember everything.
The bullet out of Tyler's gun, it tore out my other cheek to give me a jagged smile from ear to ear. Yeah, just like an angry Halloween pumpkin. Japanese demon. Dragon of Avarice.
Marla's still on Earth, and she writes to me. Someday, she says, they'll bring me back.
And if there were a telephone in Heaven, I would call Marla from Heaven and the moment she says, "Hello," I wouldn't hang up. I'd say, "Hi. What's happening? Tell me every little thing."
But I don't want to go back. Not yet.
Just because.
Because every once in a while, somebody brings me my lunch tray and my meds and he has a black eye or his forehead is swollen with stitches, and he says:
"We miss you Mr. Durden."
Or somebody with a broken nose pushes a mop past me and whispers:
"Everything's going according to the plan.
"We're going to break up civilization so we can make something better out of the world."
"We look forward to getting you back."

Chapter 25

TYLER'S STANDING THERE, perfectly handsome and an angel in his everything-blond way. My will to live amazes me.
Me, I'm a bloody tissue sample dried on a bare mattress in my room at the Paper Street Soap Company.
Everything in my room is gone.
My mirror with a picture of my foot from when I had cancer for ten minutes. Worse than cancer. The mirror is gone. The closet door is open and my six white shirts, black pants, underwear, socks, and shoes are gone. Tyler says, "Get up."
Under and behind and inside everything I took for granted, something horrible has been growing.
Everything has fallen apart.
The space monkeys are cleared out. Everything is relocated, the liposuction fat, the bunk beds, the money, especially the money. Only the garden is left behind, and the rented house.
Tyler says, "The last thing we have to do is your martyrdom thing. Your big death thing."
Not like death as a sad, downer thing, this was going to be death as a cheery, empowering thing.
Oh, Tyler, I hurt. Just kill me here.
"Get up."
Kill me, already. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.
"It has to be big," Tyler says. "Picture this: you on top of the world's tallest building, the whole building taken over by Project Mayhem. Smoke rolling out the windows. Desks falling into the crowds on the street. A real opera of a death, that's what you're going to get."
I say, no. You've used me enough.
"If you don't cooperate, we'll go after Marla."
I say, lead the way.
"Now get the fuck out of bed," Tyler said, "and get your ass into the fucking car."
So Tyler and I are up on top of the Parker-Morris Building with the gun stuck in my mouth.
We're down to our last ten minutes.
The Parker-Morris Building won't be here in ten minutes. I know this because Tyler knows this.
The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my throat, Tyler says, "We won't really die."
I tongue the gun barrel into my surviving cheek and say, Tyler, you're thinking of vampires.
We're down to our last eight minutes.
The gun is just in case the police helicopters get here sooner.
To God, this looks like one man alone, holding a gun in his own mouth, but it's Tyler holding the gun, and it's my life.
You take a 98-percent concentration of fuming nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount of sulfuric acid.
You have nitroglycerin.
Seven minutes.
Mix the vitro with sawdust, and you have a nice plastic explosive. A lot of the space monkeys mix their vitro with cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This works, too. Some monkeys, they use paraffin mixed with vitro. Paraffin has never, ever worked for me.
Four minutes.
Tyler and me at the edge of the roof, the gun in my mouth, I'm wondering how clean this gun is.
Three minutes.
Then somebody yells.
"Wait," and it's Marla coming toward us across the roof.
Marla's coming toward me, just me because Tyler's gone. Poor. Tyler's my hallucination, not hers. Fast as a magic trick, Tyler's disappeared. And now I'm just one man holding a gun in my mouth.
"We followed you," Marla yells. "All the people from the support group. You don't have to do this. Put the gun down."
Behind Marla, all the bowel cancers, the brain parasites, the melanoma people, the tuberculosis people are walking, limping, wheelchairing toward me.
They're saying, "Wait."
Their voices come to me on the cold wind, saying, "Stop."
And, "We can help you."
"Let us help you."
Across the sky comes the whop, whop, whop of police helicopters.
I yell, go. Get out of here. This building is going to explode.
Marla yells, "We know."
This is like a total epiphany moment for me.
I'm not killing myself, I yell. I'm killing Tyler.
I am Joe's Hard Drive.
I remember everything.
"It's not love or anything," Marla shouts, "but I think I like you, too."
One minute.
Marla likes Tyler.
"No, I like you," Marla shouts. "I know the difference."
And nothing.
Nothing explodes.
The barrel of the gun tucked in my surviving cheek, I say, Tyler, you mixed the vitro with paraffin, didn't you.
Paraffin never works.
I have to do this.
The police helicopters.
And I pull the trigger.

Chapter 24

HIS NAME WAS Patrick Madden, and he was the mayor's special envoy on recycling. His name was Patrick Madden, and he was an enemy of Project Mayhem.
I walk out into the night around First Methodist, and it's all coming back to me.
All the things that Tyler knows are all coming back to me.
Patrick Madden was compiling a list of bars where fight clubs met.
All of the sudden, I know how to run a movie projector. I know how to break locks and how Tyler had rented the house on Paper Street just before he revealed himself to me at the beach.
I know why Tyler had occurred. Tyler loved Marla. From the first night I met her, Tyler or some part of me had needed a way to be with Marla.
Not that any of this matters. Not now. But all the details are coming back to me as I walk through the night to the closest fight club.
There's a fight club in the basement of the Armory Bar on Saturday nights. You can probably find it on the list Patrick Madden was compiling, poor dead Patrick Madden.
Tonight, I go to the Armory Bar and the crowds part zipper style when I walk in. To everybody there, I am Tyler Durden the Great and Powerful. God and father.
All around me I hear, "Good evening, sir."
"Welcome to fight club, sir."
"Thank you for joining us, sir."
Me, my monster face just starting to heal. The hole in my face smiling through my cheek. A frown on my real mouth.
Because I'm Tyler Durden, and you can kiss my ass, I register to fight every guy in the club that night. Fifty fights. One fight at a time. No shoes. No shirts.
The fights go on as long as they have to.
And if Tyler loves Marla.
I love Marla.
And what happens doesn't happen in words. I want to smother all the French beaches I'll never see. Imagine stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around Rockefeller Center.
The first fight I get, the guy gets me in a full nelson and rams my face, rams my cheek, rams the hole in my cheek into the concrete floor until my teeth inside snap off and plant their jagged roots into my tongue.
Now I can remember Patrick Madden, dead on the floor, his little figurine of a wife, just a little girl with a chignon. His wife giggled and tried to pour champagne between her dead husband's lips.
The wife said the fake blood was too, too red. Mrs. Patrick Madden put two fingers in the blood pooled next to her husband and then put the fingers in her mouth.
The teeth planted in my tongue, I taste the blood.
Mrs. Patrick Madden tasted the blood.
I remember being there on the outskirts of the murder mystery party with the space monkey waiters standing bodyguard around me. Marla in her dress with a wallpaper pattern of dark roses watched from the other side of the ballroom.
My second fight, the guy puts a knee between my shoulder blades. The guy pulls both my arms together behind my back, and slams my chest into the concrete floor. My collarbone on one side, I hear it snap.
I would do the Elgin Marbles with a sledgehammer and wipe my ass with the Mona Lisa.
Mrs. Patrick Madden held her two bloody fingers up, the blood climbing the cracks between her teeth, and the blood ran down her fingers, down her wrist, across a diamond bracelet, and to her elbow where it dripped.
Fight number three, I wake up and it's time for fight number three. There are no more names in fight club.
You aren't your name.
You aren't your family.
Number three seems to know what I need and holds my head in the dark and the smother. There's a sleeper hold that gives you just enough air to stay awake. Number three holds my head in the crook of his arm, the way he'd hold a baby or a football, in the crook of his arm, and hammers my face with the pounding molar of his clenched fist.
Until my teeth bite through the inside of my cheek.
Until the hole in my cheek meets the corner of my mouth, the two run together into a ragged leer that opens from under my nose to under my ear.
Number three pounds until his fist is raw.
Until I'm crying.
How everything you ever love will reject you or die.
Everything you ever create will be thrown away.
Everything you're proud of will end up as trash.
I am Ozymandias, king of kings.
One more punch and my teeth click shut on my tongue. Half of my tongue drops to the floor and gets kicked away.
The little figurine of Mrs. Patrick Madden knelt on the floor next to the body of her husband, the rich people, the people they called friends, towering drunk around her and laughing.
The wife, she said, "Patrick?"
The pool of blood spreading wider and wider until it touches her skirt.
She says, "Patrick, that's enough, stop being dead."
The blood climbs the hem of her skirt, capillary action, thread to thread, climbing her skirt.
Around me the men of Project Mayhem are screaming.
Then Mrs. Patrick Madden is screaming.
And in the basement of the Armory Bar, Tyler Durden slips to the floor in a warm jumble. Tyler Durden the great, who was perfect for one moment, and who said that a moment is the most you could ever expect from perfection.
And the fight goes on and on because I want to be dead. Because only in death do we have names. Only in death are we no longer part of Project Mayhem.

Chapter 23

THE EXPLODED SHELL of my burned-out condo is outer space black and devastated in the night above the little lights of the city. With the windows gone, a yellow ribbon of police crime scene tape twists and swings at the edge of the fifteen-story drop.
I wake up on the concrete subfloor. There was maple flooring once. There was art on the walls before the explosion. There was Swedish furniture. Before Tyler.
I'm dressed. I put my hand in my pocket and feel.
I'm whole.
Scared but intact.
Go to the edge of the floor, fifteen stories above the parking lot, and look at the city lights and the stars, and you're gone.
It's all so beyond us.

Up here, in the miles of night between the stars and the Earth, I feel just like one of those space animals.
You just do your little job. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don't really understand any of it.
The world is going crazy. My boss is dead. My home is gone. My job is gone. And I'm responsible for it all.
There's nothing left.
I'm overdrawn at the bank.
Step over the edge.
The police tape flutters between me and oblivion.
Step over the edge.
What else is there?
Step over the edge.
There's Marla.
Jump over the edge.
There's Marla, and she's in the middle of everything and doesn't know it.
And she loves you.
She loves Tyler.
She doesn't know the difference.
Somebody has to tell her. Get out. Get out. Get out.
Save yourself. You ride the elevator down to the lobby, and the doorman who never liked you, now he smiles at you with three teeth knocked out of his mouth and says, "Good evening, Mr. Durden. Can I get you a cab? Are you feeling alright? Do you want to use the phone?"
You call Marla at the Regent Hotel.
The clerk at the Regent says, "Right away, Mr. Durden."
Then Marla comes on the line.
The doorman is listening over your shoulder. The clerk at the Regent is probably listening. You say, Marla, we have to talk.
Marla says, "You can suck shit."
She might be in danger, you say. She deserves to know what's going on. She has to meet you. You have to talk.
She should go to the first place we ever met. Remember. Think back.
The white healing ball of light. The palace of seven doors.
"Got it," she says. "I can be there in twenty minutes."
Be there.
You hang up, and the doorman says, "I can get you a cab, Mr. burden. Free of charge to anywhere you want."
The fight club boys are tracking you. No, you say, it's such a nice night, 1 think I'll walk.
It's Saturday night, bowel cancer night in the basement of First Methodist, and Marla is there when you arrive.
Marla Singer smoking her cigarette. Marla Singer rolling her eyes. Marla Singer with a black eye.
You sit on the shag carpet at opposite sides of the meditation circle and try to summon up your power animal while Marla glares at you with her black eye. You close your eyes and meditate to the palace of the seven doors, and you can still feel Marla's glare. You cradle your inner child.
Marla glares.
Then it's time to hug.
Open your eyes.
We should all choose a partner.
Marla crosses the room in three quick steps and slaps me hard across the face.
Share yourself completely.
"You fucking suck-ass piece of shit," Marla says.
Around us, everyone stands staring.
Then both of Marla's fists are beating me from every direction. "You killed someone," she's screaming. "I called the police and they should be here any minute."
I grab her wrists and say, maybe the police will come, but probably they won't.
Marla twists and says the police are speeding over here to hook me up to the electric chair and bake my eyes out or at least give me a lethal injection.
This will feel just like a bee sting.
An overdose shot of sodium phenobarbital, and then the big sleep. Valley of the Dogs style.
Marla says she saw me kill somebody today.
If she means my boss, I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the police know, everyone's looking for me to lethally inject me, already, but it was Tyler who killed my boss.
Tyler and I just happen to have the same fingerprints, but no one understands.
"You can suck shit," Marla says and pushes her punched-out black eye at me. "Just because you and your little disciples like getting beat up, you touch me ever again, and you're dead."
"I saw you shoot a man tonight," Marla says.
No, it was a bomb, I say, and it happened this morning. Tyler drilled a computer monitor and filled it with gasoline or black powder.
All the people with real bowel cancers are standing around watching this.
"No," Marla says. "I followed you to the Pressman Hotel, and you were a waiter at one of those murder mystery parties."
The murder mystery parties, rich people would come to the hotel for a big dinner party, and act out a sort of Agatha Christie story. Sometime between the Boudin of Gravlax arid the Saddle of Venison, the lights would go out for a minute and someone would fake getting killed. It's supposed to be a fun let's-pretend sort of death.
The rest of the meal, the guests would get drunk and eat their Madeira Consomme and try to find clues to who among them was a psychotic killer.
Marla yells, "You shot the mayor's special envoy on recycling!"
Tyler shot the mayor's special envoy on whatever.
Marla says, "And you don't even have cancer!"
It happens that fast.
Snap your fingers.
Everyone's looking.
I yell, you don't have cancer either!
"He's been coming here for two years," Marla shouts, "and he doesn't have anything!"
I'm trying to save your life!
"What? Why does my life need saving?"
Because you've been following me. Because you followed me tonight, because you saw Tyler Durden kill someone, and Tyler will kill anybody who threatens Project Mayhem.
Everybody in the room looks snapped out of their little tragedies. Their little cancer thing. Even the people on pain meds look wide-eyed and alert.
I say to the crowd, I'm sorry. I never meant any harm. We should go. We should talk about this outside.
Everybody goes, "No! Stay! What else?"
I didn't kill anybody, I say. I'm not Tyler Durden. He's the other side of my split personality. I say, has anybody here seen the movie Sybil?
Marla says, "So who's going to kill me?"

Tyler, I say, but I can take care of Tyler. You just have to watch out for the members of Project Mayhem. Tyler might've given them orders to follow you or kidnap you or something.
"Why should I believe any of this?"
It happens that fast.
I say, because I think I like you.
Marla says, "Not love?"
This is a cheesy enough moment, I say. Don't push it.
Everybody watching smiles.
I have to go. I have to get out of here. I say, watch out for guys with shaved heads or guys who look beat up. Black eyes. Missing teeth. That sort of thing.
And Marla says, "So where are you going?"
I have to take care of Tyler Durden.

Chapter 22

THAT OLD SAYING, about how you always kill the thing you love, well, it works both ways.
And it does work both ways.
This morning I went to work and there were police barricades between the building and the parking lot with the police at the front doors, taking statements from the people I work with. Everybody milling around.
I didn't even get off the bus.
I am Joe's Cold Sweat.
From the bus, I can see the floor-to-ceiling windows on the third floor of my office building are blown out, and inside a fireman in a dirty yellow slicker is whacking at a burnt panel in the suspended ceiling. A smoldering desk inches out the broken window, pushed by two firemen, then the desk tilts and slides and falls the quick three stories to the sidewalk and lands with more of a feeling than a sound.
Breaks open and it's still smoking.'
I am the Pit of Joe's Stomach.
It's my desk.
I know my boss is dead.
The three ways to make napalm. I knew Tyler was going to kill my boss. The second I smelled gasoline on my hands, when I said I wanted out of my job, I was giving him permission. Be my guest.
Kill my boss.
Oh, Tyler.
I know a computer blew up.
I know this because Tyler knows this.
I don't want to know this, but you use a jeweler's drill to drill a hole through the top of a computer monitor. All the space monkeys know this. I typed up Tyler's notes. This is a new version of the lightbulb bomb, where you drill a hole in a lightbulb and fill the bulb with gasoline. Plug the hole with wax or silicone, then screw the bulb into a socket and let someone walk into the room and throw the switch.
A computer tube can hold a lot more gasoline than a lightbulb.
A cathode ray tube, CRT, you either remove the plastic housing around the tube, this is easy enough, or you work through the vent panels in the top of the housing.
First you have to unplug the monitor from the power source and from the computer.
This would also work with a television.
Just understand, if there's a spark, even static electricity from the carpet, you're dead. Screaming, burned-alive dead.
A cathode ray tube can hold 300 volts of passive electrical storage, so use a hefty screwdriver across the main power supply capacitor, first. If you're dead at this point, you didn't use an insulated screwdriver.
There's a vacuum inside the cathode ray tube so the moment you drill through, the tube will suck air, sort of inhale a little whistle of it.
Ream the little hole with a larger bit, then a larger bit, until you can put the tip of a funnel into the hole. Then, fill the tube with your choice of explosive. Homemade napalm is good. Gasoline or gasoline mixed with frozen orange juice concentrate or cat litter.
A sort of fun explosive is potassium permanganate mixed with powdered sugar. The idea is to mix one ingredient that will burn very F fast with a second ingredient that will supply enough oxygen for that burning. This burns so fast, it's an explosion.
Barium peroxide and zinc dust.
Ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum.
The nouvelle cuisine of anarchy.
Barium nitrate in a sauce of sulfur and garnished with charcoal. That's your basic gunpowder.
Bon appetit.
Pack the computer monitor full of this, and when someone turns on the power, this is five or six pounds of gunpowder exploding in their face.
The problem is, I sort of liked my boss.
If you're male, and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And sometimes you find your father in your career.
Except Tyler didn't like my boss.
The police would be looking for me. I was the last person out of the building last Friday night. I woke up at my desk with my breath condensed on the desktop and Tyler on the telephone, telling me, "Go outside. We have a car."
We have a Cadillac.
The gasoline was still on my hands.
The fight club mechanic asked, what will you wish you'd done before you died?
I wanted out of my job. I was giving Tyler permission. Be my guest. Kill my boss.
From my exploded office, I ride the bus to the gravel turnaround point at the end of the line. This is where the subdivisions peter out to vacant lots and plowed fields. The driver takes out a sack lunch and a thermos and watches me in his overhead mirror.
I'm trying to figure where I can go that the cops won't be looking for me. From the back of the bus, I can see maybe twenty people sitting between me and the driver. I count the backs of twenty heads.
Twenty shaved heads.
The driver twists around in his seat and calls to me in the back seat, "Mr. Durden, sir, I really admire what you're doing."
I've never seen him before.
"You have to forgive me for this," the driver says. "The committee says this is your own idea sir."
The shaved heads turn around one after another. Then one by one they stand. One's got a rag in his hand, and you can smell the ether. The closest one has a hunting knife. The one with the knife is the fight club mechanic.
"You're a brave man," the bus driver says, "to make yourself a homework assignment."
The mechanic tells the bus driver, "Shut up," and "The lookout doesn't say shit."
You know one of the space monkeys has a rubber band to wrap around your nuts. They fill up the front of the bus.
The mechanic says, "You know the drill, Mr. Durden. You said it yourself. You said, if anyone ever tries to shut down the club, even you, then we have to get him by the nuts."
Picture the best part of yourself frozen in a sandwich bag at the Paper Street Soap Company.
"You know it's useless to fight us," the mechanic says.
The bus driver chews his sandwich and watches us in the overhead mirror.
A police siren wails, coming closer. A tractor rattles across a field in the distance. Birds. A window in the back of the bus is half open. Clouds. Weeds grow at the edge of the gravel turnaround. Bees or flies buzz around the weeds.
"We're just after a little collateral," the fight club mechanic says. "This isn't just a threat, this time, Mr. Durden. This time, we have to cut them."
The bus driver says, "It's cops."
The siren arrives somewhere at the front of the bus.
So what do I have to fight back with?
A police car pulls up to the bus, lights flashing blue and red through the bus windshield, and someone outside the bus is shouting, "Hold up in there."
And I'm saved.
Sort of.
I can tell the cops about Tyler. I'll tell them everything about fight club, and maybe I'll go to jail, and then Project Mayhem will be their problem to solve, and I won't be staring down a knife.
The cops come up the bus steps, the first cop saying, "You cut him yet?"
The second cop says, "Do it quick, there's a warrant out for his arrest."
Then he takes off his hat, and to me he says, "Nothing personal, Mr. Durden. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
I say, you all are making a big mistake.
The mechanic says, "You told us you'd probably say that."
I'm not Tyler Durden.
"You told us you'd say that, too."
I'm changing the rules. You can still have fight club, but we're not going to castrate anyone, anymore.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the mechanic says. He's halfway down the aisle holding the knife out in front of him. "You said you would definitely say that."
Okay so I'm Tyler Durden. I am. I'm Tyler Durden, and I dictate the rules, and I say, put the knife down.
The mechanic calls back over his shoulder, "What's our best time to date for a cut-and-run?"
Somebody yells, "Four minutes."
The mechanic yells, "Is somebody timing this?"
Both cops have climbed up into the front of the bus now, and one looks at his watch and says, "Just a sec. Wait for the second hand to get up to the twelve."
The cop says, "Nine."
I dive for the open window.
My stomach hits the thin metal windowsill, and behind me, the fight club mechanic yells, "Mr. Durden! You're going to fuck up the time."
Hanging half out the window, I claw at the black rubber sidewalk of the rear tire. I grab the wheelwell trim and pull. Someone grabs my feet and pulls. I'm yelling at the little tractor in the distance, "Hey." And "Hey." My face swelling hot and full of blood, I'm hanging upside down. I pull myself out a little. Hands around my ankles pull me back in. My tie flops in my face. My belt buckle catches on the windowsill. The bees and the flies and weeds are inches from in front of my face, and I'm yelling, "Hey!"
Hands are hooked in the back of my pants, tugging me in, hugging my pants and belt down over my ass.
Somebody inside the bus yells, "One minute!"
My shoes slip off my feet.
My belt buckle slips inside the windowsill.
The hands bring my legs together. The windowsill cuts hot from the sun into my stomach. My white shirt billows and drops down around my head and shoulders, my hands still gripping the wheelwell trim, me still yelling, "Hey!"
My legs are stretched out straight and together behind me. My pants slip down my legs and are gone. The sun shines warm on my ass.
Blood pounding in my head, my eyes bugging from the pressure, all I can see is the white shirt hanging around my face. The tractor rattles somewhere. The bees buzz. Somewhere. Everything is a million miles away. Somewhere a million miles behind me someone is yelling, "Two minutes!"
And a hand slips between my legs and gropes for me.
"Don't hurt him," someone says.
The hands around my ankles are a million miles away. Picture them at the end of a long, long road. Guided meditation.
Don't picture the windowsill as a dull hot knife slitting open your belly.
Don't picture a team of men tug-of-warring your legs apart.
A million miles away, a bah-zillion miles away, a rough warm hand wraps around the base of you and pulls you back, and something is holding you tight, tighter, tighter.
A rubber band.
You're in Ireland.
You're in fight club.
You're at work.
You're anywhere but here.
"Three minutes!"
Somebody far far away yells, "You know the speech Mr. Durden. Don't fuck with fight club."

The warm hand is cupped under you. The cold tip of the knife. An arm wraps around your chest. Therapeutic physical contact. Hug time. And the ether presses your nose and mouth, hard. Then nothing, less than nothing. Oblivion.

Chapter 21

HIS NAME IS Robert Paulson and he is forty-eight years old. His name is Robert Paulson, and Robert Paulson will be forty-eight years old, forever.
On a long enough time line, everyone's survival rate drops to zero.
Big Bob.
The big cheesebread. The big moosie was on a regulation chill-and-drill homework assignment. This was how Tyler got into my condominium to blow it up with homemade dynamite. You take a spray canister of refrigerant, R-12 if you can still get it, what with the ozone hole and everything, or R-134a, and you spray it into the lock cylinder until the works are frozen.
On a chill-and-drill assignment, you spray the lock on a pay telephone or a parking meter or a newspaper box. Then you use a hammer and a cold chisel to shatter the frozen lock cylinder.
On a regulation drill-and-fill homework assignment, you drill the phone or the automatic bank teller machine, then you screw a lube fitting into the hole and use a grease gun to pump your target full of axle grease or vanilla pudding or plastic cement.
It's not that Project Mayhem needed to steal a handful of change. The Paper Street Soap Company was backlogged on filling orders. God help us when the holidays came around. Homework is to build your nerve. You need some cunning. Build your investment in Project Mayhem.
Instead of a cold chisel, you can use an electric drill on the frozen lock cylinder. This works just as well and it's more quiet.
It was a cordless electric drill that the police thought was a gun when they blew Big Bob away.
There was nothing to tie Big Bob to Project Mayhem or fight club or the soap.
In his pocket was a wallet photo of himself huge and naked at first glance in a posing strap at some contest. It's a stupid way to live, Bob said. You're blind from the stage lights, and deaf from the feedback rush of the sound system until the judge will order, extend your right quad, flex and hold.
Put your hands where we can see them.
Extend your left arm, flex the bicep and hold.
Drop the weapon.
This was better than real life.
On his hand was a scar from my kiss. From Tyler's kiss. Big Bob's sculpted hair had been shaved off and his fingerprints had been burned off with lye. And it was better to get hurt than get arrested, because if you were arrested, you were off Project Mayhem, no more homework assignments.
One minute, Robert Paulson was the warm center that the life of the world crowded around, and the next moment, Robert Paulson was an object. After the police shot, the amazing miracle of death.
In every fight club, tonight, the chapter leader walks around in the darkness outside the crowd of men who stare at each other across the empty center of every fight club basement, and this voice yells:
"His name is Robert Paulson."
And the crowd yells, "His name is Robert Paulson."
The leaders yell, "He is forty-eight years old."
And the crowd yells, "He is forty-eight years old."
He is forty-eight years old, and he was part of fight club.
He is forty-eight years old, and he was part of Project Mayhem.
Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes.
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson."
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson."
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson."
I go to fight club tonight to shut it down. I stand in the one light at the center of the room, and the club cheers. To everyone here, I'm Tyler Durden. Smart. Forceful. Gutsy. I hold up my hands for silence, and I suggest, why don't we all just call it a night. Go home, tonight, and forget about fight club.
I think fight club has served its purpose, don't you?
Project Mayhem is canceled.
I hear there's a good football game on television . . .
One hundred men just stare at me.
A man is dead, I say. This game is over. It's not for fun anymore. Then, from the darkness outside the crowd comes the anonymous voice of the chapter leader: "The first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club."
I yell, go home!
"The second rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club."
Fight club is canceled! Project Mayhem is canceled.
"The third rule is only two guys to a fight."
I am Tyler Durden, I yell. And I'm ordering you to get out!
And no one's looking at me. The men just stare at each other across the center of the room.
The voice of the chapter leader goes slowly around the room. Two men to a fight. No shirts. No shoes.
The fight goes on and on and on as long as it has to.
Picture this happening in a hundred cities, in a half-dozen languages.
The rules end, and I'm still standing in the center of the light.
"Registered fight number one, take the floor," yells the voice out of the darkness. "Clear the center of the club."
I don't move.
"Clear the center of the club!"
I don't move.
The one light reflects out of the darkness in one hundred pairs of eyes, all of them focused on me, waiting. I try to see each man the way Tyler would see him. Choose the best fighters for training in Project Mayhem. Which ones would Tyler invite to work at the Paper Street Soap Company?
"Clear the center of the club!" This is established fight club procedure. After three requests from the chapter leader, I will be ejected from the club.
But I'm Tyler Durden. I invented fight club. Fight club is mine. I wrote those rules. None of you would be here if it wasn't for me. And I say it stops here!
"Prepare to evict the member in three, two, one."
The circle of men collapses in on top of me, and two hundred hands clamp around every inch of my arms and legs and I'm lifted spreadeagle toward the light.
Prepare to evacuate soul in five, in four, three, two, one.
And I'm passed overhead, hand to hand, crowd surfing toward the door. I'm floating. I'm flying.
I'm yelling, fight club is mine. Project Mayhem was my idea. You can't throw me out. I'm in control here. Go home.
The voice of the chapter leader yells, "Registered fight number one, please take the center of the floor. Now!"
I'm not leaving. I'm not giving up. I can beat this. I'm in control here.
"Evict fight club member, now!"
Evacuate soul, now.
And I fly slowly out the door and into the night with the stars overhead and the cold air, and I settle to the parking lot concrete. All the hands retreat, and a door shuts behind me, and a bolt snaps it locked. In a hundred cities, fight club goes on without me.

FOR YEARS NOW I've wanted to fall asleep. The sort of slipping off, the
giving up, the falling part of sleep. Now sleeping is the last thing I want to do.
I'm with Marla in room 8G at the Reagent Hotel. With all the old people and junkies shut up in their little rooms, here, somehow, my pacing desperation seems sort of norms and expected.
"Here," Marla says while she's sitting cross-legged on her bed and punching a half-dozen wake-up pills out of their plastic blister cart "I used to date a guy who had terrible nightmares. He hated to sleep too."
What happened to the guy she was dating?
"Oh, he died. Heart attack. Overdose. Way too many amphetamines," Marls says. "He was only nineteen."
Thanks for sharing.
When we walked into the hotel, the guy at the lobby desk had half his hair torn out at the roots. His scalp raw and scabbed, he saluted me. The seniors watching television in the lobby all turned to see who I was when the guy at the desk called me sir.
"Good evening, sir."
Right now, I can imagine him calling some Project Mayhem headquarters and reporting my whereabouts. They'll have a wall map of the city and trace my movements with little pushpins. I feel tagged like a migrating goose on Wild Kingdom.
They're all spying on me, keeping tabs.
"You can take all six of these and not get sick to your stomach," Marla says, "but you have to take them by putting them up your butt."
Oh, this is pleasant.
Marla says, "I'm not making this up. We can get something stronger, later. Some real drugs like cross tops or black beauties or alligators."
I'm not putting these pills up my ass.
"Then only take two."
Where are we going to go?
"Bowling. It's open all night, and they won't let you sleep there."
Everywhere we go, I say, guys on the street think I'm Tyler burden.
"Is that why the bus driver let us ride for free?"
Yeah. And that's why the two guys on the bus gave us their seats.
"So what's your point?"
I don't think it's enough to just hide out. We have to do something to get rid of Tyler.
"I dated a guy once who liked to wear my clothes," Marla says. "You know, dresses. Hats with veils. We could dress you up and sneak you around."
I'm not cross-dressing, and I'm not putting pills up my ass.

"It gets worse," Marla says. "I dated a guy, once, who wanted me to fake a lesbian scene with his blow-up doll."
I could imagine myself becoming one of Marla's stories.
I dated a guy once who was a split personality
"I dated this other guy who used one of those penis enlargement systems."
I ask what time is it?
"Four A.M."
In another three hours, I have to be at work.
"Take your pills," Marla says. "You being Tyler Durden and all, they'll probably let us bowl for free. Hey, before we get rid of Tyler, can we go shopping? We could get a nice car. Some clothes. Some CDs. There is an upside to all this free stuff"
"Okay, forget it."

Chapter 20

FAST FORWARD, fly back home to Marla and the Paper Street Soap Company.
Everything is still falling apart.
At home, I'm too scared to look in the fridge. Picture dozens of little plastic sandwich bags labeled with cities like Las Vegas and Chicago and Milwaukee where Tyler had to make good his threats to protect chapters of fight club. Inside each bag would be a pair of messy tidbits, frozen solid. .
In one corner of the kitchen, a space monkey squats on the cracked linoleum and studies himself in a hand mirror. "I am the all-singing, all-dancing crap of this world," the space monkey tells the mirror. "I am the toxic waste byproduct of God's creation."
Other space monkeys move around in the garden, picking things, killing things.
With one hand on the freezer door, I take a big breath and try to center my enlightened spiritual entity.
Raindrops on roses
Happy Disney animals
This makes my parts hurt
The freezer's open an inch when Marla peers over my shoulder and says, "What's for dinner?"
The space monkey looks at himself squatting in his hand mirror. "I am the shit and infectious human waste of creation."
Full circle.
About a month ago, I was afraid to let Marla look in the fridge. Now I'm afraid to look in the fridge myself.
Oh, God. Tyler.
Marla loves me. Marla doesn't know the difference.
"I'm glad you're back," Marla says. "We have to talk."
Oh, yeah, I say. We have to talk.
I can't bring myself to open the freezer.
I am Joe's Shrinking Groin.
I tell Marla, don't touch anything in this freezer. Don't even open it. If you ever find anything inside it, don't eat them or feed them to a cat or anything. The space monkey with the hand mirror is eyeing us so I tell Marla we have to leave. We need to be someplace else to have this talk.
Down the basement stairs, one space monkey is reading to the other space monkeys. "The three ways to make napalm:
"One, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate," the space monkey in the basement reads. "Two, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and diet cola. Three, you can dissolve crumbled cat litter in gasoline until the mixture is thick."
Marla and I, we mass-transit from the Paper Street Soap Company to a window booth at the planet Denny's, the orange planet.
This was something Tyler talked about, how since England did all the exploration and built colonies and made maps, most of the places in geography have those secondhand sort of English names. The English got to name everything. Or almost everything.
Like, Ireland.
New London, Australia.
New London, India.
New London, Idaho.
New York, New York.
Fast-forward to the future.
This way, when deep-space exploitation ramps up, it will probably be the megatonic corporations that discover all the new planets and map them.
The IBM Stellar Sphere.
The Philip Morris Galaxy.
Planet Denny's.
Every planet will take on the corporate identity of whoever rapes it first.
Budweiser World.
Our waiter has a big goose egg on his forehead and stands ramrod straight, heels together. "Sir!" our waiter says. "Would you like to order now? Sir!" he says. "Anything you order is free of charge. Sir!"
You can imagine you smell urine in everybody's soup.
Two coffees, please.
Marla asks, "Why is he giving us free food?"
The waiter thinks I'm Tyler Durden, I say.
In that case, Marla orders fried clams and clam chowder and a fish basket and fried chicken and a baked potato with everything and a chocolate chiffon pie.
Through the pass-through window into the kitchen, three line cooks, one with stitches along his upper lip, are watching Marla and me and whispering with their three bruised heads together. I tell the waiter, give us clean food, please. Please, don't be doing any trash to the stuff we order.
"In that case, sir," our waiter says, "may I advise against the lady, here, eating the clam chowder."
Thank you. No clam chowder. Marla looks at me, and I tell her, trust me.
The waiter turns on his heel and marches our order back to the kitchen.
Through the kitchen pass-through window, the three line cooks give me the thumbs-up.
Marla says, "You get some nice perks, being Tyler Durden."
From now on, I tell Marla, she has to follow me everywhere at night, and write down everywhere I go. Who do I see. Do I castrate anyone important. That sort of detail.
I take out my wallet and show Marla my driver's license with my real name.
Not Tyler Durden.
"But everyone knows you're Tyler Durden," Marla says.
Everyone but me.
Nobody at work calls me Tyler Durden. My boss calls me by my real name.
My parents know who I really am.
"So why," Marla asks, "are you Tyler Durden to some people but not to everybody?"
The first time I met Tyler, I was asleep.
I was tired and crazy and rushed, and every time I boarded a plane, I wanted the plane to crash. I envied people dying of cancer. I hated my life. I was tired and bored with my job and my furniture, and I couldn't see any way to change things.
Only end them.
I felt trapped.
I was too complete.
I was too perfect.
I wanted a way out of my tiny life. Single-serving butter and cramped airline seat role in the world.
Swedish furniture.
Clever art.
I took a vacation. I fell asleep on the beach, and when I woke up there was Tyler Durden, naked and sweating, gritty with sand, his hair wet and stringy, hanging in his face.
Tyler was pulling driftwood logs out of the surf and dragging them up the beach.
What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant hand, and Tyler was sitting in the palm of a perfection he'd made himself.
And a moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.
Maybe I never really woke up on that beach.
Maybe all this started when I peed on the Blarney stone.
When I fall asleep, I don't really sleep.
At other tables in the Planet Denny's, I count one, two, three, four, five guys with black cheekbones or folded-down noses smiling at me.
"No," Marla says, "you don't sleep."
Tyler Durden is a separate personality I've created, and now he's threatening to take over my real life.
"Just Eke Tony Perkins' mother in Psycho," Marla says. "This is so cool. Everybody has their little quirks. One time, I dated a guy who couldn't get enough body piercings."
My point being, I say, I fall asleep and Tyler is running off with my body and punched-out face to commit some crime. The next morning, I wake up bone tired and beat up, and I'm sure I haven't slept at all.
The next night, I'd go to bed earlier.
That next night, Tyler would be in charge a little longer.
Every night that I go to bed earlier and earlier, Tyler will be in charge longer and longer.
"But you are Tyler," Marla says.
No, I'm not.
I love everything about Tyler Durden, his courage and his smarts. His nerve. Tyler is funny and charming and forceful and independent, and men look up to him and expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and free, and I am not.
I'm not Tyler Durden.
"But you are, Tyler," Marla says.
Tyler and I share the same body, and until now, I didn't know it. Whenever Tyler was having sex with Marla, I was asleep. Tyler was walking and talking while I thought I was asleep.
Everyone in fight club and Project Mayhem knew me as Tyler burden.
And if I went to bed earlier every night and I slept later every morning, eventually I'd be gone altogether.
I'd just go to sleep and never wake up.
Marla says, "Just like the animals at the Animal Control place."
Valley of the Dogs. Where even if they don't kill you, if someone loves you enough to take you home, they still castrate you.
I would never wake up, and Tyler would take over.
The waiter brings the coffee and clicks his heels and leaves.
I smell my coffee. It smells like coffee.
"So," Marla says, "even if I did believe all this, what do you want from me?"
So Tyler can't take complete control, I need Marla to keep me awake. All the time.
Full circle.
The night Tyler saved her life, Marla asked him to keep her awake all night.
The second I fall asleep, Tyler takes over and something terrible will happen.
And if I do fall asleep, Marla has to keep track of Tyler. Where he goes. What he does. So maybe during the day, I can rush around and undo the damage.

Chapter 19

ALL NIGHT LONG, your thoughts are on the air.
Am I sleeping? Have I slept at all? This is the insomnia.
Try to relax a little more with every breath out, but your heart's still racing and your thoughts tornado in your head.
Nothing works. Not guided meditation.
You're in Ireland.
Not counting sheep.
You count up the days, hours, minutes since you can remember falling asleep. Your doctor laughed. Nobody ever died from lack of sleep. The old bruised fruit way your face looks, you'd think you were dead.
After three o'clock in the morning in a motel bed in Seattle, it's too late for you to find a cancer support group. Too late to find some little blue Amytal Sodium capsules or lipstick-red Seconals, the whole Valley of the Dolls playset. After three in the morning, you can't get into a fight club.
You've got to find Tyler.
You've got to get some sleep.
Then you're awake, and Tyler's standing in the dark next to the bed.
You wake up.
The moment you were falling asleep, Tyler was standing there saying, "Wake up. Wake up, we solved the problem with the police here in Seattle. Wake up."
The police commissioner wanted a crackdown on what he called gang-type activity and after-hours boxing clubs.
"But not to worry," Tyler says. "Mister police commissioner shouldn't be a problem," Tyler says. "We have him by the balls, now."
I ask if Tyler's been following me.
"Funny," Tyler says, "I wanted to ask you the same thing. You talked about me to other people, you little shit. You broke your promise."
Tyler was wondering when I'd figure him out.
"Every time you fall asleep," Tyler says, "I run off and do something wild, something crazy, something completely out of my mind."
Tyler kneels down next to the bed and whispers, "Last Thursday, you fell asleep, and I took a plane to Seattle for a little fight club looksee. To check the turn-away numbers, that sort of thing. Look for new talent. We have Project Mayhem in Seattle, too."
Tyler's fingertip traces the swelling along my eyebrows. "We have Project Mayhem in Los Angeles and Detroit, a big Project Mayhem going on in Washington, D.C., in New York. We have Project Mayhem in Chicago like you would not believe."
Tyler says, "I can't believe you broke your promise. The first rule is you don't talk about fight club."
He was in Seattle last week when a bartender in a neck brace told
him that the police were going to crack down on fight clubs. The police commissioner himself wanted it special.
"What it is," Tyler says, "is we have police who come to fight at fight club and really like it. We have newspaper reporters and law clerks and lawyers, and we know everything before it's going to happen."
We were going to be shut down.
"At least in Seattle," Tyler says.
I ask what did Tyler do about it.
"What did we do about it," Tyler says.
We called an Assault Committee meeting.
"There isn't a me and a you, anymore," Tyler says, and he pinches the end of my nose. "I think you've figured that out."
We both use the same body, but at different times.
"We called a special homework assignment," Tyler says. "We said, `Bring me the steaming testicles of his esteemed honor, Seattle Police Commissioner Whoever."'
I'm not dreaming.
"Yes," Tyler says, "you are."
We put together a team of fourteen space monkeys, and five of these space monkeys were police, and we were every person in the park where his honor walks his dog, tonight.
"Don't worry," Tyler says, "the dog is alright."
The whole attack took three minutes less than our best run-through. We'd projected twelve minutes. Our best run-through was nine minutes.
We have five space monkeys hold him down.
Tyler's telling me this, but somehow, I already know it.
Three space monkeys were on lookout.
One space monkey did the ether.
One space monkey tugged down his esteemed sweatpants.
The dog is a spaniel, and it's just barking and barking.
Barking and barking.
Barking and barking.
One space monkey wrapped the rubber band three times until it was tight around the top of his esteemed sack.
"One monkey's between his legs with the knife," Tyler whispers with his punched-out face by my ear. "And I'm whispering in his most esteemed police commissioner's ear that he better stop the fight club crackdown, or we'll tell the world that his esteemed honor does not have any balls."
Tyler whispers, "How far do you think you'll get, your honor?"
The rubber band is cutting off any feeling down there.
"How far do you think you'll get in politics if the voters know you have no nuts?"
By now, his honor has lost all feeling.
Man, his nuts are ice cold.
If even one fight club has to close, we'll send his nuts east and west. One goes to the New York Tuner and one goes to the Los Angeles Timer. One to each. Sort of press release style.
The space monkey took the ether rag off his mouth, and the commissioner said, don't.
And Tyler said, "We have nothing to lose except fight club."
The commissioner, he had everything.
All we were left was the shit and the trash of the world.
Tyler nodded to the space monkey with the knife between the commissioner's legs.
Tyler asked, "Imagine the rest of your life with your bag flapping empty."
The commissioner said, no.
And don't.
And the space monkey slips the knife in and only cuts off the rubber band.
Six minutes, total, and we were done.
"Remember this," Tyler said. "The people you're trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.
"We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact," Tyler said. "So don't fuck with us."
The space monkey had to press the ether down, hard on the commissioner sobbing and put him all the way out.
Another team dressed him and took him and his dog home. After that, the secret was up to him to keep. And, no, we didn't expect any more fight club crackdown.
His esteemed honor went home scared but intact.
"Every time we do these little homework assignments," Tyler says, "these fight club men with nothing to lose are a little more invested in Project Mayhem."
Tyler kneeling next to my bed says, "Close your eyes and give me your hand."
I close my eyes, and Tyler takes my hand. I feel Tyler's lips against the scar of his kiss.
"I said that if you talked about me behind my back, you'd never see me again," Tyler said. "We're not two separate men. Long story short, when you're awake, you have the control, and you can call yourself anything you want, but the second you fall asleep, I take over, and you become Tyler Durden."
But we fought, I say. The night we invented fight club.
"You weren't really fighting me," Tyler says. "You said so yourself. You were fighting everything you hate in your life."
But I can see you.
"You're asleep."
But you're renting a house. You held a job. Two jobs.
Tyler says, "Order your canceled checks from the bank. I rented the house in your name. I think you'll find the handwriting on the rent checks matches the notes you've been typing for me."
Tyler's been spending my money. It's no wonder I'm always overdrawn.
"And the jobs, well, why do you think you're so tired. Geez, it's not insomnia. As soon as you fall asleep, I take over and go to work or fight club or whatever. You're lucky I didn't get a job as a snake handler."
I say, but what about Marla?
"Marla loves you."
Marla loves you.
"Marla doesn't know the difference between you and me. You
gave her a fake name the night you met. You never gave your real name at a support group, you inauthentic shit. Since I saved her life, Marla thinks your name is Tyler Durden."
So, now that I know about Tyler, will he just disappear?
"No," Tyler says, still holding my hand, "I wouldn't be here in the first place if you didn't want me. I'll still live my life while you're asleep, but if you fuck with me, if you chain yourself to the bed at night or take big doses of sleeping pills, then we'll be enemies. And I'll get you for it."
Oh, this is bullshit. This is a dream. Tyler is a projection. He's a disassociative personality disorder. A psychogenic fugue state. Tyler Durden is my hallucination.
"Fuck that shit," Tyler says. "Maybe you're my schizophrenic hallucination."
I was here first.
Tyler says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, well let's just see who's here last."
This isn't real. This is a dream, and I'll wake up.
"Then wake up."
And then the telephone's ringing, and Tyler's gone.
Sun is coming through the curtains.
It's my 7 A.M. wake-up call, and when I pick up the receiver, the fine is dead.

Chapter 18

YOU WAKE UP at Sky Harbor International.
Set your watch back two hours.
The shuttle takes me to downtown Phoenix and every bar I go into there are guys with stitches around the rim of an eye socket where a good slam packed their face meat against its sharp edge. There are guys with sideways noses, and these guys at the bar see me with the puckered hole in my cheek and we're an instant family.
Tyler hasn't been home for a while. I do my little job. I go airport to airport to look at the cars that people died in. The magic of travel. Tiny life. Tiny soaps. The tiny airline seats.
Everywhere I travel, I ask about Tyler.
In case I find him, the driver's licenses of my twelve human sacrifices are in my pocket.
Every bar I walk into, every fucking bar, I see beat-up guys. Every

If you can wake up in a different place. If you can wake up in a different time. Why can't you wake up as a different person? Every bar you go into, punchedout guys want to buy you a beer. And no, sir, they've never met this Tyler Durden. And they wink. They've never heard the name before. Sir. I ask about fight club. Is there a fight club around here, tonight? No, sir. The second rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. The punched-out guys at the bar shake their heads. Never heard of it. Sir. But you might find this fight club of yours in Seattle, sir. You wake up at Meigs Field and call Marla to see what's happening on Paper Street. Marla says now all the space monkeys are shaving their heads. Their electric razor gets hot and now the whole house smells like singed hair. The space monkeys are using lye to burn off their fingerprints.

You wake up at SeaTac.
Set your watch back two hours.
The shuttle takes you to downtown Seattle, and the first bar you go into, the bartender is wearing a neck brace that tilts his head back so far he has to look down his purple smashed eggplant of a nose to grin at you.
The bar is empty, and the bartender says, "Welcome back, sir."
I've never been to this bar, ever, ever before.
I ask if he knows the name Tyler Durden.
The bartender grins with his chin stuck out above the top of the white neck brace and asks, "Is this a test?"
Yeah, I say, it's a test. Has he ever met Tyler Durden?
"You stopped in last week, Mr. Durden," he says. "Don't you remember?"
Tyler was here.
"You were here, sir."
I've never been in here before tonight.
"If you say so, sir," the bartender says, "but Thursday night, you came in to ask how soon the police were planning to shut us down."
Last Thursday night, I was awake all night with the insomnia, wondering was I awake, was I sleeping. I woke up late Friday morning, bone tired and feeling I hadn't ever had my eyes closed.
"Yes, sir," the bartender says, "Thursday night, you were standing right where you are now and you were asking me about the police crackdown, and you were asking me how many guys we had to turn away from the Wednesday night fight club."
The bartender twists his shoulders and braced neck to look around the empty bar and says, "There's nobody that's going to hear, Mr. burden, sir. We had a twenty-seven-count turn-away, last night. The place is always empty the night after fight club."
Every bar I've walked into this week, everybody's called me sir.
Every bar I go into, the beat-up fight club guys all start to look alike. How can a stranger know who I am?
"You have a birthmark, Mr. Durden," the bartender says. "On your foot. It's shaped like a dark red Australia with New Zealand next to it."
Only Marla knows this. Marla and my father. Not even Tyler knows this. When I go to the beach, I sit with that foot tucked under me.
The cancer I don't have is everywhere, now.
"Everybody in Project Mayhem knows, Mr. Durden." The bartender holds up his hand, the back of his hand toward me, a kiss burned into the back of his hand.
My kiss?
Tyler's kiss.
"Everybody knows about the birthmark," the bartender says. "It's part of the legend. You're turning into a fucking legend, man."

I call Marla from my Seattle motel room to ask if we've ever done it. You know. Long distance, Marla says, "What?" Slept together. "What!" Have I ever, you know, had sex with her? "Christ!" Well? "Well?" she says. Have we ever had sex? "You are such a piece of shit." Have we had sex? "I could kill you!" Is that a yes or a no? "I knew this would happen," Marla says. "You're such a flake. You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, then you cook my mother into soap."
I pinch myself.
I ask Marla how me met.
"In that testicle cancer thing," Marla says. "Then you saved my life." I saved her life?
"You saved my life."
Tyler saved her life.
"You saved my life."
I stick my finger through the hole in my cheek and wiggle the finger around. This should be good for enough major league pain to wake me up.
Marla says, "You saved my life. The Regent Hotel. I'd accidentally attempted suicide. Remember?"
"That night," Marla says, "I said I wanted to have your abortion." We've just lost cabin pressure.
I ask Marla what my name is.
We're all going to die.
Marla says, "Tyler Durden. Your name is Tyler Butt-Wipe-for-Brains Durden. You live at 5123 NE Paper Street which is currently teeming with your little disciples shaving their heads and burning their skin off with lye."
I've got to get some sleep.
"You've got to get your ass back here," Marla yells over the phone, "before those little trolls make soap out of me."
I've got to find Tyler.
The scar on her hand, I ask Marla, how did she get it?
"You," Marla says. "You kissed my hand."
I've got to find Tyler.
I've got to get some sleep.
I've got to sleep.
I've got to go to sleep.
I tell Marla goodnight, and Marla's screaming is smaller, smaller, smaller, gone as I reach over and hang up the phone.

Chapter 17

THE TEARS WERE really coming now, and one fat stripe rolled along the barrel of the gun and down the loop around the trigger to burst flat against my index finger. Raymond Hessel closed both eyes so I pressed the gun hard against his temple so he would always feel it pressing right there and I was beside him and this was his life and he could be dead at any moment.
This wasn't a cheap gun, and I wondered if salt might fuck it up.
Everything had gone so easy, I wondered. I'd done everything the mechanic said to do. This was why we needed to buy a gun. This was doing my homework.
We each had to bring Tyler twelve driver's licenses. This would prove we each made twelve human sacrifices.
I parked tonight, and I waited around the block for Raymond Hessel to finish his shift at the all-night Korner Mart, and around midnight he was waiting for a night owl bus when I finally walked up and said, hello.
Raymond Hessel, Raymond didn't say anything. Probably he figured I was after his money, his minimum wage, the fourteen dollars in his wallet. Oh, Raymond Hessel, all twenty-three years of you, when you started crying, tears rolling down the barrel of my gun pressed to your temple, no, this wasn't about money. Not everything is about money.
You didn't even say, hello.
You're not your sad little wallet.
I said, nice night, cold but clear.
You didn't even say, hello.
I said, don't run, or I'll have to shoot you in the back. I had the gun out, and I was wearing a latex glove so if the gun ever became a people's exhibit A, there'd be nothing on it except the dried tears of Raymond Hessel, Caucasian, aged twenty-three with no distinguishing marks.
Then I had your attention. Your eyes were big enough that even in the streetlight I could see they were antifreeze green.
You were jerking backward and backward a little more every time the gun touched your face, as if the barrel was too hot or too cold. Until I said, don't step back, and then you let the gun touch you, but even then you rolled your head up and away from the barrel.
You gave me your wallet like I asked.
Your name was Raymond K. Hessel on your driver's license. You live at 1320 SE Benning, apartment A. That had to be a basement apartment. They usually give basement apartments letters instead of numbers.
Raymond K. K. K. K. K. K. Hessel, I was talking to you.
Your head rolled up and away from the gun, and you said, yeah. You said, yes, you lived in a basement.
`You had some pictures in the wallet, too. There was your mother.
This was a tough one for you, you'd have to open your eyes and see the picture of Mom and Dad smiling and see the gun at the same time, but you did, and then your eyes closed and you started to cry.
You were going to cool, the amazing miracle of death. One minute, you're a person, the next minute, you're an object, and Mom and Dad would have to call old doctor whoever and get your dental records because there wouldn't be much left of your face, and Mom and Dad, they'd always expected so much more from you and, no, life wasn't fair, and now it was come to this.
Fourteen dollars.
This, I said, is this your mom?
Yeah. You were crying, sniffing, crying. You swallowed. Yeah.
You had a library card. You had a video movie rental card. A social security card. Fourteen dollars cash. I wanted to take the bus pass, but the mechanic said to only take the driver's license. An expired community college student card.
You used to study something.
You'd worked up a pretty intense cry at this point so I pressed the gun a little harder against your cheek, and you started to step back until I said, don't move or you're dead right here. Now, what did you study?
In college, I said. You have a student card.
Oh, you didn't know, sob, swallow, sniff, stuff, biology.
Listen, now, you're going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing off the top of your head. Make something up. I don't give a shit. I have the gun.
Finally, you were listening and coming out of the little tragedy in your head.
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?
Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please.
No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could do anything in the world.
Make something up.
You didn't know.
Then you're dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.
Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight.
A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a veterinarian.
That means animals. You have to go to school for that.
It means too much school, you said.
You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your wallet into the back pocket of your jeans. So you really wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against the other. Is that what you've always wanted to be, Dr. Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian?
No shit?
No. No, you meant, yeah, no shit. Yeah.
Okay, I said, and I pressed the wet end of the muzzle to the tip of your chin, and then the tip of your nose, and everywhere I pressed the muzzle, it left a shining wet ring of your tears.
So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school.
I pressed the wet end of the gun on each cheek, and then on your chin, and then against your forehead and left the muzzle pressed there. You might as well be dead right now, I said.
I have your license.
I know who you are. I know where you live. I'm keeping your license, and I'm going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then in six months, and then in a year, and if you aren't back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.

You didn't say anything.
Get out of here, and do your little life, but remember I'm watching you, Raymond Hessel, and I'd rather kill you than see you working a shit job for just enough money to buy cheese and watch television.
Now, I'm going to walk away so don't turn around.
This is what Tyler wants me to do.
These are Tyler's words coming out of my mouth.
I am Tyler's mouth.
I am Tyler's hands.
Everybody in Project Mayhem is part of Tyler Durden, and vice versa.
Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.
bar, they throw an arm around me and want to buy me a beer. It's like I already know which bars are the fight club bars. I ask, have they seen a guy named Tyler Durden. It's stupid to ask if they know about fight club. The first rule is you don't talk about fight club. But have they seen Tyler Durden? They say, never heard of him, sir. But you might find him in Chicago, sir. It must be the hole in my cheek, everyone calls me sir. And they wink. You wake up at O'Hare and take the shuttle into Chicago. Set your watch ahead an hour.

Chapter 16

THE FIGHT CLUB mechanic is standing on the gas, raging behind the wheel in his quiet way, and we still have something important to do, tonight.
One thing I'll have to learn before the end of civilization is how to look at the stars and tell where I'm going. Things are quiet as driving a Cadillac through outer space. We must be off the freeway. The three guys in the back seat are passed out or asleep.
"You had a near-life experience," the mechanic says.
He takes one hand off the steering wheel and touches the long welt where my forehead bounced off the steering wheel. My forehead is swelling enough to shut both my eyes, and he runs a cold fingertip down the length of the swelling. The Corniche hits a bump and the pain seems to bump out over my eyes like the shadow from the brim of a cap. Our twisted rear springs and bumper bark and creak in the quiet around our rush down the night road.
The mechanic says how the back bumper of the Corniche is hanging by its ligaments, how it was torn almost free when it caught an end of the truck's front bumper.
I ask, is tonight part of his homework for Project Mayhem?
"Part of it," he says. "I had to make four human sacrifices, and I have to pick up a load of fat."
"For the soap."
What is Tyler planning?
The mechanic starts talking, and it's pure Tyler Durden.
"I see the strongest and the smartest men who have ever lived," he says, his face outlined against the stars in the driver's window, "and these men are pumping gas and waiting tables."
The drop of his forehead, his brow, the slope of his nose, his eyelashes and the curve of his eyes, the plastic profile of his mouth, talking, these are all outlined in black against the stars.
"If we could put these men in training camps and finish raising them.
"All a gun does is focus an explosion in one direction.
"You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need.
"We don't have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression.
"We have to show these men and women freedom by enslaving them, and show them courage by frightening them.
"Napoleon bragged that he could train men to sacrifice their lives for a scrap of ribbon.
"Imagine, when we call a strike and everyone refuses to work until we redistribute the wealth of the world.
"Imagine hunting elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center.
"What you said about your job," the mechanic says, "did you really mean it?"
Yeah, I meant it.
"That's why we're on the road, tonight," he says.
We're a hunting party, and we're hunting for fat.
We're going to the medical waste dump.
We're going to the medical waste incinerator, and there among the discarded surgical drapes and wound dressings, and ten-year-old tumors and intravenous tubes and discarded needles, scary stuff, really scary stuff, among the blood samples and amputated tidbits, we'll find more money than we can haul away in one night, even if we were driving a dump truck.
We'll find enough money to load this Corniche down to the axle stops.
"Fat," the mechanic says, "liposuctioned fat sucked out of the richest thighs in America. The richest, fattest thighs in the world."
Our goal is the big red bags of liposuctioned fat we'll haul back to Paper Street and render and mix with lye and rosemary and sell back to the very people who paid to have it sucked out. At twenty bucks a bar, these are the only folks who can afford it.
"The richest, creamiest fat in the world, the fat of the land," he says. "That makes tonight a kind of Robin Hood thing."
The little wax fires sputter in the carpet.
"While we're there," he says, "we're supposed to look for some of those hepatitis bugs, too."

Chapter 15

THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, I fall asleep at my desk at work.
When I wake up with my face and my crossed arms an my desktop, the telephone is ringing, and everyone else is gone. A telephony was ringing in my dream, and it's not clear if reality slipped into my dream or if my dream is slopping over into reality.
I answer the phone, Compliance and Liability. That's my department. Compliance and Liability.
The sun is going down, and piled-up storm clouds the size of Wyoming and Japan are headed our way. It's not like I have a window at work. All the outside walls are floor-to-ceiling glass. Everything where I work is floor-toceiling glass. Everything is vertical blinds. Everything is industrial low-pile gray carpet spotted with little tombstone monuments where the PCs plug into the network. Everything is a maze of cubicles boxed in with fences of upholstered plywood.
A vacuum cleaner hums somewhere.
My boss is gone on vacation. He sent me an E-mail and then disappeared. I'm to prepare for a formal review in two weeks. Reserve a conference room. Get all my ducks in a row. Update my resume That sort of thing. They're building a case against me.
I am Joe's Complete Lack of Surprise.
I've been behaving miserably.
I pick up the phone, and it's Tyler, and he says, "Go outside, there's some guys waiting for you in the parking lot."
I ask, who are they?
"They're all waiting," Tyler says.
I smell gasoline on my hands.
Tyler goes, "Hit the road. They have a car, outside. They have a Cadillac."
I'm still asleep.
Here, I'm not sure if Tyler is my dream.
Or if I am Tyler's dream.
I sniff the gasoline on my hands. There's nobody else around, and I get up and walk out to the parking lot.
A guy in fight club works on cars so he's parked at the curb in soma body's black Corniche, and all I can do is look at it, all black and gold, this huge cigarette case ready to drive me somewhere. This mechanic guy who gets out of the car tells me not to worry, he switched the plates with another car in the long-term parking lot at the airport.
Our fight club mechanic says he can start anything. Two wires twist out of the steering column. Touch the wires to each other, you complete the circuit to the starter solenoid, you got a car to joyride.
Either that, or you could hack the key code through a dealership.
Three space monkeys are sitting in the back seat wearing their black shirts and black pants. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.
I ask, so where's Tyler?
The fight club mechanic guy is holding the Cadillac open chauffeur style for me. The mechanic is tall and all bones with shoulders that remind you of a telephone pole crossbar.
I ask, are we going to see Tyler?
Waiting for me in the middle of the front seat is a birthday cake with candles ready to be lit. I get in. We start driving.
Even a week after fight club, you've got no problem driving inside the speed limit. Maybe you've been passing black shit, internal injuries, for two days, but you are so cool. Other cars drive around you. Cars tailgate. You get the finger from other drivers. Total strangers hate you. It's absolutely nothing personal. After fight club, you're so relaxed, you just cannot care. You don't even turn the radio on. Maybe your ribs stab along a hairline fracture every time you take a breath. Gars behind you blink their lights. The sun is going down, orange and gold.
The mechanic is there, driving. The birthday cake is on the seat between us.
It's one scary fuck to see guys like our mechanic at fight club. Skinny guys, they never go limp. They fight until they're burger. White guys like skeletons dipped in yellow wax with tattoos, black men like dried meat, these guys usually hang together, the way you can picture them at Narcotics Anonymous. They never say, stop. It's like they're all energy, shaking so fast they blur around the edges, these guys in recovery from something. As if the only choice they have left is how they're going to die and they want to die in a fight.
They have to fight each other, these guys.
Nobody else will tag them for a fight, and they can't tag anybody except another twitching skinny, all bones and rush, since nobody else will register to fight them.
Guys watching don't even yell when guys like our mechanic go at each other.
All you hear is the fighters breathing through their teeth, hands slapping for a hold, the whistle and impact when fists hammer and hammer on thin hollow ribs, point-blank in a clinch. You see tendons and muscle and veins under the skin of these guys jump. Their skin shines, sweating, corded, and wet under the one light.
Ten, fifteen minutes disappear. Their smell, they sweat and these guys' smell, it reminds you of fried chicken.
Twenty minutes of fight club will go by. Finally, one guy will go down.
After a fight, two drug recovery guys will hang together for the rest of the night, wasted and smiling from fighting so hard.
Since fight club, this mechanic guy is always hanging around the house on Paper Street. Wants me to hear the song he wrote. Wants me to see the birdhouse he built. The guy showed me a picture of some girl and asked me if she was pretty enough to marry.
Sitting in the front seat of the Corniche, the guy says, "Did you see this cake I made for you? I made this."
It's not my birthday. "Some oil was getting by the rings," the mechanic guy says, "but 1 changed the oil and the air filter. I checked the valve lash and the timing. It's supposed to rain, tonight, so I changed the blades."
I ask, what's Tyler been planning?
The mechanic opens the ashtray and pushes the cigarette lighter in. He says, "Is this a test? Are you testing us?"
Where's Tyler?
"The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club," the mechanic says. "And the last rule about Project Mayhem is you don't ask questions."
So what can he tell me?
He says, "What you have to understand, is your father was your model for God."
Behind us, my job and my office are smaller, smaller, smaller, gone.
I sniff the gasoline on my hands.
The mechanic says, "If you're male and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or-is never at home, what do you believe about God?"
This is all Tyler Durden dogma. Scrawled on bits of paper while I was asleep and given to me to type and photocopy at work. I've read it all. Even my boss has probably read it all.
"What you end up doing," the mechanic says, "is you spend your life searching for a father and God."
"What you have to consider," he says, "is the possibility that God doesn't like you. Could be, God hates us. This is not the worst thing that can happen."
How Tyler saw it was that getting God's attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God's hate
better than His indifference.
If you could be either God's worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?
We are God's middle children, according to Tyler Durden, with no special place in history and no special attention.
Unless we get God's attention, we have no hope of damnation or Redemption.
Which is worse, hell or nothing?
Only if we're caught and punished can we be saved.
"Burn the Louvre," the mechanic says, "and wipe your ass with the Mona Lira. This way at least, God would know our names."
The lower you fall, the higher you'll fly. The farther you run, the more God wants you back.
" "If the prodigal son had never left home," the mechanic says, "the fitted calf would still be alive."
' It's not enough to be numbered with the grains of sand on the beach and the stars in the sky.
The mechanic merges the black Corniche onto the old bypass highway with no passing lane, and already a line of trucks strings together behind us, going the legal speed limit. The Corniche fills up with the headlights behind us, and there we are, talking, reflected in the inside of the windshield. Driving inside the speed limit. As fast as the law allows.
A law is a law, Tyler would say. Driving too fast was the same as setting a fire was the same as planting a bomb was the same as shooting a man.
A criminal is a criminal is a criminal.
"Last week, we could've filled another four fight clubs," the mechanic says. "Maybe Big Bob can take over running the next chapter if we find a bar."
So next week, he'll go through the rules with Big Bob and give him a fight club of his own.
From now on, when a leader starts fight club, when everyone is standing around the light in the center of the basement, waiting, the leader should walk around and around the outside edge of the crowd, in the dark.
I ask, who made up the new rules? Is it Tyler?
The mechanic smiles and says, "You know who makes up the rules."
The new rule is that nobody should be the center of fight club, he says. Nobody's the center of fight club except the two men fighting. The leader's voice will yell, walking slowly around the crowd, out in the darkness. The men in the crowd will stare at other men across the empty center of the room:
This is how it will be in all the fight clubs.
Finding a bar or a garage to host a new fight club isn't tough; the first bar, the one where the original fight club still meets, they make their month's rent in just one fight club Saturday night.
According to the mechanic, another new fight club rule is that fight
club will always be free. It will never cost to get in. The mechanic yells out the driver's window into the oncoming traffic and the night wind pouring down the side of the car: "We want you, not your money."
The mechanic yells out the window, "As long as you're at fight club, you're not how much money you've got in the bank. You're not your job. You're not your family, and you're not who you tell yourself."
The mechanic yells into the wind, "You're not your name."
A space monkey in the back seat picks it up: "You're not your problems."
The mechanic yells, "You're not your problems."
A space monkey shouts, "You're not your age."
The mechanic yells, "You're not your age."
Here, the mechanic swerves us into the oncoming lane, filling the car with headlights through the windshield, cool as ducking jabs. One car and then another comes at us head-on screaming its horn and the mechanic swerves just enough to miss each one.
Headlights come at us, bigger and bigger, horns screaming, and the mechanic cranes forward into the glare and noise and screams, "You ;ire not your hopes."
No one takes up the yell.
This time, the car coming head-on swerves in time to save us.
Another car comes on, headlights blinking high, low, high, low, horn blaring, and the mechanic screams, "You will not be saved."
The mechanic doesn't swerve, but the head-on car swerves.
Another car, and the mechanic screams, "We are all going to die, someday."
This time, the oncoming car swerves, but the mechanic swerves hack into its path. The car swerves, and the mechanic matches it, headon, again.
You melt and swell at that moment. For that moment, nothing matters. Look up at the stars and you're gone. Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not your bad breath. The windows are dark outside and the horns are blaring around you. The headlights are flashing high and low and high in your face, and you will never have to go to work again.
You will never have to get another haircut.
"Quick," the mechanic says.
The car swerves again, and the mechanic swerves back into its path.
"What," he says, "what will you wish you'd done before you died?"
With the oncoming car screaming its horn and the mechanic so cool he even looks away to look at me beside him in the front seat, and he says, "Ten seconds to impact.
"In eight.
"In six."
My job, I say. I wish I'd quit my job.
The scream goes by as the car swerves and the mechanic doesn't swerve to hit it.
More lights are coming at us just ahead, and the mechanic turns to the three monkeys in the back seat. "Hey, space monkeys," he says, "you see how the game's played. Fess up now or we're all dead."
A car passes us on the right with a bumper sticker saying, "I Drive Better When I'm Drunk." The newspaper says thousands of these bumper stickers just appeared on cars one morning. Other bumper stickers said things like "Make Mine Veal."
"Drunk Drivers Against Mothers."
"Recycle All the Animals."
Reading the newspaper, I knew the Misinformation Committee had pulled this. Or the Mischief Committee.
Sitting beside me, our clean and sober fight club mechanic tells me, yeah, the Drunk bumper stickers are part of Project Mayhem.
The three space monkeys are quiet in the back seat.
The Mischief Committee is printing airline pocket cards that show passengers fighting each other for oxygen masks while their jetliner flames down toward the rocks at a thousand miles an hour.
Mischief and Misinformation Committees are racing each other to develop a computer virus that will make automated bank tellers sick enough to vomit storms of ten- and twenty-dollar bills.
The cigarette lighter in the dash pops out hot, and the mechanic tells me to light the candles on the birthday cake.
I light the candles, and the cake shimmers under a little halo of fire.
"What will you wish you'd done before you died?" the mechanic says and swerves us into the path of a truck coming head-on. The truck hits the air horn, bellowing one long blast after another as the truck's headlights, like a sunrise, come brighter and brighter to sparkle off the mechanic's smile.
"Make your wish, quick," he says to the rearview mirror where the three space monkeys are sitting in the back seat. "We've got five seconds to oblivion.
"One," he says.
The truck is everything in front of us, blinding bright and roaring.
"Ride a horse," comes from the back seat.
"Build a house," comes another voice.
"Get a tattoo."
The mechanic says, "Believe in me and you shall die, forever."
Too late, the truck swerves and the mechanic swerves but the rear of our Corniche fishtails against one end of the truck's front bumper.
Not that I know this at the time, what I know is the lights, the truck headlights blink out into darkness and I'm thrown first against the passenger door and then against the birthday cake and the mechanic behind the steering wheel.
The mechanic's lying crabbed on the wheel to keep it straight and the birthday candles snuff out. In one perfect second there's no light inside the warm black leather car and our shouts all hit the same deep note, the same low moan of the truck's air horn, and we have no control, no choice, no direction, and no escape and we're dead.
My wish right now is for me to die. I am nothing in the world compared to Tyler.
I am helpless.
I am stupid, and all I do is want and need things.
My tiny life. My little shit job. My Swedish furniture. I never, no, never told anyone this, but before I met Tyler, I was planning to buy a dog and name it "Entourage."
This is how bad your life can get.
Kill me.
I grab the steering wheel and crank us back into traffic.
Prepare to evacuate soul.
The mechanic wrestles the wheel toward the ditch, and I wrestle to fucking die.
Now. The amazing miracle of death, when one second you're walking and talking, and the next second, you're an object.
I am nothing, and not even that.
I smell leather. My seat belt feels twisted like a straitjacket around me, and when I try to sit up, I hit my head against the steering wheel. This hurts more than it should. My head is resting in the mechanic's lap, and as I look up, my eyes adjust to see the mechanic's face high over me, smiling, driving, and I can see stars outside the driver's window.
My hands and face are sticky with something.
Buttercream frosting.
The mechanic looks down. "Happy Birthday."
I smell smoke and remember the birthday cake.
"I almost broke the steering wheel with your head," he says.
Just nothing else, just the night air and the smell of smoke, and the stars and the mechanic smiling and driving, my head in his lap, all of a sudden I don't feel like I have to sit up.
Where's the cake?
The mechanic says, "On the floor."
Just the night air and the smell of smoke is heavier.
Did I get my wish?
Up above me, outlined against the stars in the window, the face smiles. "Those birthday candles," he says, "they're the kind that never go out."
In the starlight, my eyes adjust enough to see smoke braiding up from little fires all around us in the carpet.

Chapter 14

MY BOSS BRINGS another sheet of paper to my desk and sets it at my elbow. I don't even wear a tie anymore. My boss is wearing his blue tie, so it must be a Thursday. The door to my boss's office is always closed now, and we haven't traded more than two words any day since he found the fight club rules in the copy machine and I maybe implied I might gut him with a shotgun blast. Just me clowning around, again.
Or, I might call the Compliance people at the Department of Transportation. There's a front seat mounting bracket that never passed collision testing before it went into production.
If you know where to look, there are bodies buried everywhere.
Morning, I say.
He says, "Morning."
Set at my elbow is another for-my-eyes-only important secret document
One pair of heavy black shoes.
Two pair of black socks and two pair of plain underwear.
One heavy black coat.
This includes the clothes the applicant has on his back.
One white towel.
One army surplus cot mattress.
One white plastic mixing bowl.
At my desk, with my boss still standing there, I pick up the original list and tell him, thanks. My boss goes into his office, and I set to work playing solitaire on my computer.
After work, I give Tyler the copies, and days go by. I go to work.
I come home.
I go to work.
I come home, and there's a guy standing on our front porch. The guy's at the front door with his second black shirt and pants in a brown paper sack and he's got the last three items, a white towel, an army surplus mattress, and a plastic bowl, set on the porch railing. From an upstairs window, Tyler and I peek out at the guy, and Tyler tells me to send the guy away.
"He's too young," Tyler says.
The guy on the porch is mister angel face whom I tried to destroy the night Tyler invented Project Mayhem. Even with his two black eyes and blond crew cut, you see his tough pretty scowl without wrinkles or scars. Put him in a dress and make him smile, and he'd be a woman. Mister angel just stands his toes against the front door, just looks straight ahead into the splintering wood with his hands at his sides, wearing black shoes, black shirt, black pair of trousers.
"Get rid of him," Tyler tells me. "He's too young."
I ask how young is too young?
"It doesn't matter," Tyler says. "If the applicant is young, we tell him he's too young. If he's fat, he's too fat. If he's old, he's too old.
Thin, he's too thin. White, he's too white. Black, he's too black."
This is how Buddhist temples have tested applicants going back for bahzillion years, Tyler says. You tell the applicant to go away, and if his resolve is so strong that he waits at the entrance without food or shelter or encouragement for three days, then and only then can he enter and begin the training.
So I tell mister angel he's too young, but at lunchtime he's still there. After lunch, I go out and beat mister angel with a broom and kick the guy's sack out into the street. From upstairs, Tyler watches me stickball the broom upside the kid's ear, the kid just standing there, then I kick his stuff into the gutter and scream.
Go away, I'm screaming. Haven't you heard? You're too young. You'll never make it, I scream. Come back in a couple years and apply again. Just go. Just get off my porch.
The next day, the guy is still there, and Tyler goes out to go, "I'm sorry." Tyler says he's sorry he told the guy about training, but the guy is really too young, and would he please just go.
Good cop. Bad cop.
I scream at the poor guy, again. Then, six hours later, Tyler goes out and says he's sorry, but no. The guy has to leave. Tyler says he's going to call the police if the guy won't leave.
And the guy stays.
And his clothes are still in the gutter. The wind takes the torn paper sack away.
And the guy stays.
On the third day, another applicant is at the front door. Mister angel is still there, and Tyler goes down and just tells mister angel, "Come in. Get your stuff out of the street and come in."
To the new guy, Tyler says, he's sorry but there's been a mistake. The new guy is too old to train here, and would he please leave.
I go to work every day. I come home, and every day there's one or two guys waiting on the front porch. These new guys don't make eye contact. I shut the door and leave them on the porch. This happens every day for a while, and sometimes the applicants will leave, but most times, the applicants stick it out until the third day, until most of the seventy-two bunk beds Tyler and I bought and set up in the basement are full.
One day, Tyler gives me five hundred dollars in cash and tells me to keep it in my shoe all the time. My personal burial money. This is another old Buddhist monastery thing.
I come home from work now, and the house is filled with strangers that Tyler has accepted. All of them working. The whole first floor turns into a kitchen and a soap factory. The bathroom is never empty. Teams of men disappear for a few days and come home with red rubber bags of thin, watery fat.
One night, Tyler comes upstairs to find me hiding in my room and says, "Don't bother them. They all know what to do. It's part of Project Mayhem. No one guy understands the whole plan, but each guy is trained to do one simple task perfectly."
The rule in Project Mayhem is you have to trust Tyler.
Then Tyler's gone.
Teams of Project Mayhem guys render fat all day. I'm not sleeping. All night I hear other teams mix the lye and cut the bars and bake the bars of soap on cookie sheets, then wrap each bar in tissue and seal it with the Paper Street Soap Company label. Everyone except me seems to know what to do, and Tyler is never home.
I hug the walls, being a mouse trapped in this clockwork of silent men with the energy of trained monkeys, cooking and working and sleeping in teams. Pull a lever. Push a button. A team of space monkeys cooks meals all day, and all day, teams of space monkeys are eating out of the plastic bowls they brought with them.
One morning I'm leaving for work and Big Bob's on the front
porch wearing black shoes and a black shirt and pants. I ask, has he seen Tyler lately? Did Tyler send him here?
"The first rule about Project Mayhem," Big Bob says with his heels together and his back ramrod straight, "is you don't ask questions about Project Mayhem."
So what brainless little honor has Tyler assigned him, I ask. There are guys whose job is to just boil rice all day or washout eating bowls or clean the crapper. All day. Has Tyler promised Big Bob enlightenment if he spends sixteen hours a day wrapping bars of soap?
Big Bob doesn't say anything.
I go to work. I come home, and Big Bob's still on the porch. I don't sleep all night, and the next morning, Big Bob's out tending the garden.
Before I leave for work, I ask Big Bob, who let him in? Who assigned him this task? Did he see Tyler? Was Tyler here last night?
Big Bob says, "The first rule in Project Mayhem is you don't talk-"
I cut him off. I say, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And while I'm at work, teams of space monkeys dig up the muddy lawn around the house and cut the dirt with Epsom salts to lower the acidity, and spade in loads of free steer manure from the stockyards and bags of hair clippings from barber shops to ward off moles and mice and boost the protein in the soil.
At any time of the night, space monkeys from some slaughterhouse come home with bags of blood meal to boost the iron in the soil and bone meal to boost the phosphorus.
Teams of space monkeys plant basil and thyme and lettuce and starts of witch hazel and eucalyptus and mock orange and mint in a kaleidoscope knot pattern. A rose window in every shade of green. And other teams go out at night and kill the slugs and snails by candlelight. Another team of space monkeys picks only the most perfect
leaves and juniper berries to boil for a natural dye. Comfrey because it's a natural disinfectant. Violet leaves because they cure headaches and sweet woodruff because it gives soap a cut-grass smell.
In the kitchen are bottles of 80-proof vodka to make the translucent rose geranium and brown sugar soap and the patchouli soap, and I steal a bottle of vodka and spend my personal burial money on cigarettes. Marla shows up. We talk about the plants. Marla and I walk on raked gravel paths through the kaleidoscope green patterns of the garden, drinking and smoking. We talk about her breasts. We talk about everything except Tyler Durden.
And one day it's in the newspaper how a team of men wearing black had stormed through a better neighborhood and a luxury car dealership slamming baseball bats against the front bumpers of cars so the air bags inside would explode in a powdery mess with their car alarms screaming.
At the Paper Street Soap Company, other teams pick the petals from roses or anemones and lavender and pack the flowers into boxes with a cake of pure tallow that will absorb their scent for making soap with a flower smell.
Marla tells me about the plants.
The rose, Marla tells me, is a natural astringent.
Some of the plants have obituary names: Iris, Basil, Rue, Rosemary, and Verbena. Some, like meadowsweet and cowslips, sweet flag and spikenard, are like the names of Shakespeare fairies. Deer tongue with its sweet vanilla smell. Witch hazel, another natural astringent. Orrisroot, the wild Spanish iris.
Every night, Marla and I walk in the garden until I'm sure that Tyler's not coming home that night. Right behind us is always a space monkey trailing us to pick up the twist of balm or rue or mint Marla crushes under my nose. A dropped cigarette butt. The space monkey rakes the path behind him to erase our ever being there.
And one night in an uptown square park, another group of men floured gasoline around every tree and from tree to tree and set a perfect little forest fire. It was in the newspaper, how townhouse winlows across the street from the fire melted, and parked cars farted and settled on melted flat tires.
Tyler's rented house on Paper Street is a living thing wet on the inside from so many people sweating and breathing. So many people are moving inside, the house moves.
Another night that Tyler didn't come home, someone was drilling bank machines and pay telephones and then screwing lube fittings into the drilled holes and using a grease gun to pump the bank machines and pay telephones full of axle grease or vanilla pudding.
And Tyler was never at home, but after a month a few of the space monkeys had Tyler's kiss burned into the back of their hand. Then those space monkeys were gone, too, and new ones were on the front porch to replace them.
And every day, the teams of men came and went in different cars. You never saw the same car twice. One evening, I hear Marla on the front porch, telling a space monkey, "I'm here to see Tyler. Tyler Durden He lives here. I'm his friend."
The space monkey says, "I'm sorry, but you're too . . . ," and he pauses, "you're too young to train here."
Marla says, "Get screwed."
"Besides," the space monkey says, "you haven't brought the required items: two black shirts, two pair of black pants-"
Marla screams, "Tyler!"
"One pair of heavy black shoes."
"Two pair of black socks and two pair of plain underwear."
And I hear the front door slam shut. Marla doesn't wait the three days.
Most days, after work, I come home and make a peanut butter sandwich.
When I come home, one space monkey is reading to the assembled space monkeys who sit covering the whole first floor. "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile."
The space monkey continues, "Our culture has made us all the same. No one is truly white or black or rich, anymore. We all want the same. Individually, we are nothing."
The reader stops when I walk in to make my sandwich, and all the space monkeys sit silent as if I were alone. I say, don't bother. I've already read it. I typed it.
Even my boss has probably read it.
We're all just a big bunch of crap, I say. Go ahead. Play your little game. Don't mind me.
The space monkeys wait in quiet while I make my sandwich and take another bottle of vodka and go up the stairs. Behind me I hear, "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake."
I am Joe's Broken Heart because Tyler's dumped me. Because my father dumped me. Oh, I could go on and on.
Some nights, after work, I go to a different fight club in the basement of a bar or garage, and I ask if anybody's seen Tyler Durden.
In every new fight club, someone I've never met is standing under the one light in the center of the darkness, surrounded by men, and reading Tyler's words.
The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.
When the fights get started, I take the club leader aside and ask if he's seen Tyler. I live with Tyler, I say, and he hasn't been home for a while.
The guy's eyes get big and he asks, do I really know Tyler Durden?
This happens in most of the new fight clubs. Yes, I say, I'm best buddies with Tyler. Then, everybody all of a sudden wants to shake my hand.
These new guys stare at the butthole in my cheek and the black skin on my face, yellow and green around the edges, and they call me sir. No, sir. Not hardly, sir. Nobody they know's ever met Tyler Durden. Friends of friends met Tyler Durden, and they founded this chapter of fight club, sir.
Then they wink at me.
Nobody they know has ever seen Tyler Durden.
Is it true, everybody asks. Is Tyler Durden building an army? That's the word. Does Tyler Durden only sleep one hour a night? Rumor has it that Tyler's on the road starting fight clubs all over the country. What's next, everybody wants to know.
The meetings for Project Mayhem have moved to bigger basements because each committee-Arson, Assault, Mischief, and Misinformation-gets bigger as more guys graduate out of fight club. Each committee has a leader, and even the leaders don't know where Tyler's at. Tyler calls them every week on the phone.
Everybody on Project Mayhem wants to know what's next.
Where are we going?
What is there to look forward to?
On Paper Street, Marla and I walk through the garden at night with our bare feet, every step brushing up the smell of sage and lemon verbena and rose geranium. Black shirts and black pants hunch around us with candles, lifting plant leaves to kill a snail or slug. Marla asks, what's going on here?
Tufts of hair surface beside the dirt clods. Hair and shit. Bone meal and blood meal. The plants are growing faster than the space monkeys can cut them back.
Marla asks, "What are you going to do?"
What's the word?
In the dirt is a shining spot of gold, and I kneel down to see. What's going to happen next, I don't know, I tell Marla.
It looks like we've both been dumped.
In the corner of my eye, the space monkeys pace around in black, each one hunched over his candle. The little spot of gold in the dirt is a molar with a gold filling. Next to it surface two more molars with silver amalgam fillings. It's a jawbone.
I say, no, I can't say what's going to happen. And I push the one, two, three molars into the dirt and hair and shit and bone and blood where Marla won't see.