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.

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