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."

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