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.

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