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Chapter 15. THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, I fall asleep at my desk at work.
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-to-ceiling 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. Cars 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 I 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?"
"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're 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.
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.
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.
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.
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