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Бойцовский Клуб 6 страница



All night long, you’re thinking: Am I asleep? Have I slept?

Insult to injury, Big Bob’s arms come out of his T-shirt sleeves quilted with muscle and so hard they shine. Big Bob smiles, he’s so happy to see me.

He thought I was dead.

Yeah, I say, me too.

“Well,” Big Bob says, “I’ve got good news.”

Where is everybody?

“That’s the good news,” Big Bob says. “The group’s disbanded. I only come down here to tell any guys who might show up.”

I collapse with my eyes closed on one of the plaid thrift store couches.

“The good news,” Big Bob says, “is there’s a new group, but the first rule about this new group is you aren’t supposed to talk about it.

Oh.

Big Bob says, “And the second rule is you’re not supposed to talk about it.”

Oh, shit. I open my eyes.

Fuck.

“The group’s called fight club,” Big Bob says, “and it meets every Friday night in a closed garage across town. On Thursday nights, there’s another fight club that meets at a garage closer by.”

I don’t know either of these places.

“The first rule about fight club,” Big Bob says, “is you don’t talk about fight club.”

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, Tyler is a movie projectionist. I saw his pay stub last week.

“The second rule about fight club,” Big Bob says, “is you don’t talk about fight club.”

Saturday night, Tyler goes to fight club with me.

“Only two men per fight.”

Sunday morning, we come home beat up and sleep all afternoon. “Only one fight at a time,” Big Bob says. Sunday and Monday night, Tyler’s waiting tables. “You fight without shirts or shoes.” Tuesday night, Tyler’s at home making soap, wrapping it in tissue paper, shipping it out. The Paper Street Soap Company. “The fights,” Big Bob says, “go on as long as they have to. Those are the rules invented by the guy who invented fight club.” Big Bob asks, “Do you know him? “I’ve never seen him, myself,” Big Bob says, “but the guy’s name is Tyler Durden.” The Paper Street Soap Company. Do I know him. I dunno, I say. Maybe.

Chapter 10

When I get to the Regent Hotel, Marla’s in the lobby wearing a bathrobe. Marla called me at work and asked, would I skip the gym and the library or the laundry or whatever I had planned after work and come see her, instead.

This is why Marla called, because she hates me.

She doesn’t say a thing about her collagen trust fund.

What Marla says is, would I do her a favor? Marla was lying in bed this afternoon. Marla lives on the meals that Meals on Wheels delivers for her neighbors who are dead; Marla accepts the meals and says they’re asleep. Long story short, this afternoon Marla was just lying in bed, waiting for the Meals on Wheels delivery between noon and two. Marla hasn’t had health insurance for a couple years so she’s stopped looking, but this morning she looks and there seemed to be a lump and the nodes under her arm near the lump were hard and tender at the same time and she couldn’t tell anyone she loves because she doesn’t want to scare them and she can’t afford to see a doctor if this is nothing, but she needed to talk to someone and someone else needed to look.

The color of Marla’s brown eyes is like an animal that’s been heated in a furnace and dropped into cold water. They call that vulcanized or galvanized or tempered.

Marla says she’ll forgive the collagen thing if I’ll help her look.

I figure she doesn’t call Tyler because she doesn’t want to scare him. I’m neutral in her book, I owe her.

We go upstairs to her room, and Marla tells me how in the wild you don’t see old animals because as soon as they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, something stronger kills them. Animals aren’t meant to get old.

Marla lies down on her bed and undoes the tie on her bathrobe, and says our culture has made death something wrong. Old animals should be an unnatural exception.

Freaks.

Marla’s cold and sweating while I tell her how in college I had a wart once. On my penis, only I say, dick. I went to the medical school to have it removed. The wart. Afterwards, I told my father. This was years after, and my dad laughed and told me I was a fool because warts like that are nature’s French tickler. Women love them and God was doing me a favor.

Kneeling next to Marla’s bed with my hands still cold from outside, feeling Marla’s cold skin a little at a time, rubbing a little of Marla between my fingers every inch, Marla says those warts that are God’s French ticklers give women cervical cancer.

So I was sitting on the paper belt in an examining room at the medical school while a medical student sprays a canister of liquid nitrogen on my dick and eight medical students watched. This is where you end up if you don’t have medical insurance. Only they don’t call it a dick, they called it a penis, and whatever you call it, spray it with liquid nitrogen and you might as well burn it with lye, it hurts so bad.

Marla laughs at this until she sees my fingers have stopped. Like maybe I’ve found something.

Marla stops breathing and her stomach goes like a drum, and her heart is like a fist pounding from inside the tight skin of a drum. But no, I stopped because I’m talking, and I stopped because, for a minute, neither of us was in Marla’s bedroom. We were in the medical school years ago, sitting on the sticky paper with my dick on fire with liquid nitrogen when one of the medical students saw my bare feet and left the room fast in two big steps. The student came back in behind three real doctors, and the doctors elbowed the man with the canister of liquid nitrogen to one side.

A real doctor grabbed my bare right foot and hefted it into the face of the other real doctors. The three turned it and poked it and took Polaroid pictures of the foot, and it was as if the rest of the person, half dressed with God’s gift half frozen, didn’t exist. Only the foot, and the rest of the medical students pressed in to see.

“How long,” a doctor asked, “have you had this red blotch on your foot?”

The doctor meant my birthmark. On my right foot is a birthmark that my father jokes looks like a dark red Australia with a little New Zealand right next to it. This is what I told them and it let all the air out of everything. My dick was thawing out. Everyone except the student with the nitrogen left, and there was the sense that he would’ve left too, he was so disappointed he never met my eyes as he took the head of my dick and stretched it toward himself. The canister jetted a tiny spray on what was left of the wart. The feeling, you could close your eyes and imagine your dick is a hundred miles long, and it would still hurt.

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Marla looks down at my hand and the scar from Tyler’s kiss.

I said to the medical student, you must not see a lot of birthmarks around here.

It’s not that. The student said everyone thought the birthmark was cancer. There was this new kind of cancer that was getting young men. They wake up with a red spot on their feet or ankles. The spots don’t go away, they spread until they cover you and then you die.

The student said, the doctors and everyone were so excited because they thought you had this new cancer. Very few people had it, yet, but it was spreading.

This was years and years ago.

Cancer will be like that, I tell Marla. There will be mistakes, and maybe the point is not to forget the rest of yourself if one little part might go bad.

Marla says, “Might.”

The student with the nitrogen finished up and told me the wart would drop off after a few days. On the sticky paper next to my bare ass was a Polaroid picture of my foot that no one wanted. I said, can I have the picture?

I still have the picture in my room stuck in the corner of a mirror in the frame. I comb my hair in the mirror before work every morning and think how I once had cancer for ten minutes, worse than cancer.

I tell Marla that this Thanksgiving was the first year when my grandfather and I did not go ice skating even though the ice was almost six inches thick. My grandmother always has these little round bandages on her forehead or her arms where moles she’s had her whole life didn’t look right. They spread out with fringed edges or the moles turned from brown to blue or black.

When my grandmother got out of the hospital the last time, my grandfather was carrying her suitcase and it was so heavy he complained that he felt lopsided. My French-Canadian grandmother was so modest that she never wore a swimming suit in public and she al ways ran water in the sink to mask any sound she might make in the bathroom. Coming out of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital after a partial mastectomy, she says: “You feel lopsided?”

For my grandfather, that sums up the whole story, my grandmother, cancer, their marriage, your life. He laughs every time he tells that story.

Marla isn’t laughing. I want to make her laugh, to warm her up. To make her forgive me for the collagen, I want to tell Marla there’s nothing for me to find. If she found anything this morning, it was a mistake. A birthmark.

Marla has the scar from Tyler’s kiss on the back of her hand.

I want to make Marla laugh so I don’t tell her about the last time I hugged Chloe, Chloe without hair, a skeleton dipped in yellow wax with a silk scarf tied around her bald head. I hugged Chloe one last time before she disappeared forever. I told her she looked like a pirate, and she laughed. Me, when I go to the beach, I always sit with my right foot tucked under me. Australia and New Zealand, or I keep it buried in the sand. My fear is that people will see my foot and I’ll start to die in their minds. The cancer I don’t have is everywhere now. I don’t tell Marla that.

There are a lot of things we don’t want to know about the people we love.

To warm her up, to make her laugh, I tell Marla about the woman in Dear Abby who married a handsome successful mortician and on their wedding night, he made her soak in a tub of ice water until her skin was freezing to the touch, and then he made her lie in bed completely still while he had intercourse with her cold inert body.

The funny thing is this woman had done this as a newlywed, and gone on to do it for the next ten years of marriage and now she was writing to Dear Abby to ask if Abby thought it meant something.

Chapter 11

This is why I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention.

If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window.

You had their full attention.

People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.

And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.

Marla had started going to the support groups after she found the first lump.

The morning after we found her second lump, Marla hopped into the kitchen with both legs in one leg of her pantyhose and said, “Look, I’m a mermaid.”

Marla said, “This isn’t like when guys sit backward on the toilet and pretend it’s a motorcycle. This is a genuine accident.”

Just before Marla and I met at Remaining Men Together, there was the first lump, and now there was a second lump.

What you have to know is that Marla is still alive. Marla’s philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she doesn’t.

When Marla found the first lump, she went to a clinic where slumped scarecrow mothers sat in plastic chairs on three sides of the waiting room with limp doll children balled in their laps or lying at their feet. The children were sunken and dark around their eyes the way oranges or bananas go bad and collapse, and the mothers scratched at mats of dandruff from scalp yeast infections out of control. The way the teeth in the clinic looked huge in everyone’s thin face, you saw how teeth are just shards of bone that come through your skin to grind things up.

This is where you end up if you don’t have health insurance.

Before anyone knew any better, a lot of gay guys had wanted children, and now the children are sick and the mothers are dying and the fathers are dead, and sitting in the hospital vomit smell of piss and vinegar while a nurse asks each mother how long she’s been sick and how much weight she’s lost and if her child has any living parent or guardian, Marla decides, no.

If she was going to die, Marla didn’t want to know about it.

Marla walked around the corner from the clinic to City Laundry and stole all the jeans out of the dryers, then walked to a dealer who gave her fifteen bucks a pair. Then Marla bought herself some really good pantyhose, the kind that don’t run.

“Even the good kind that don’t run,” Marla says, “they snag.”

Nothing is static. Everything is falling apart.

Marla started going to the support groups since it was easier to be around other human butt wipe. Everyone has something wrong. And for a while, her heart just sort of flatlined.

Marla started a job doing prepaid funeral plans for a mortuary where sometimes great fat men, but usually fat women, would come out of the mortuary showroom carrying a crematory urn the size of an egg cup, and Marla would sit there at her desk in the foyer with her dark hair tied down and her snagged pantyhose and breast lump and doom, and say, “Madam, don’t flatter yourself. We couldn’t get even your burned-up head into that tiny thing. Go back and get an urn the size of a bowling ball.”

Marla’s heart looked the way my face was. The crap and the trash of the world. Post-consumer human butt wipe that no one would ever go to the trouble to recycle.

Between the support groups and the clinic, Marla told me, she had met a lot of people who were dead. These people were dead and on the other side, and at night they called on the telephone. Marla would go to bars and hear the bartender calling her name, and when she took the call the line was dead.

At the time, she thought this was hitting bottom.

“When you’re twenty-four,” Marla says, “you have no idea how far you can really fall, but I was a fast learner.”

The first time Marla filled a crematory urn, she didn’t wear a face mask, and later she blew her nose and there in the tissue was a black mess of Mr. Whoever.

In the house on Paper Street, if the phone rang only once and you picked it up and the line was dead, you knew it was someone trying to reach Marla. This happened more than you might think.

In the house on Paper Street, a police detective stated calling about my condominium explosion, and Tyler stood with his chest against my shoulder, whispering into my ear while I held the phone to the other ear, and the detective asked if I knew anyone who could make homemade dynamite.

“Disaster is a natural part of my evolution,” Tyler whispered, “toward tragedy and dissolution.”

I told the detective that it was the refrigerator that blew up my condo.

“I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions,” Tyler whispered, “because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.”

The dynamite, the detective said, there were impurities, a residue of ammonium oxalate and potassium perchloride that might mean the bomb was homemade, and the dead bolt on the front door was shattered.

I said I was in Washington, D.C., that night.

The detective on the phone explained how someone had sprayed a canister of Freon into the dead-bolt lock and then tapped the lock with a cold chisel to shatter the cylinder. This is the way criminals are stealing bicycles.

“The liberator who destroys my property,” Tyler said, “is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free.”

The detective said whoever set the homemade dynamite could’ve turned on the gas and blown out the pilot lights on the stove days before the explosion took place. The gas was just the trigger. It would take days for the gas to fill the condo before it reached the compressor at the base of the refrigerator and the compressor’s electric motor set off the explosion.

“Tell him,” Tyler whispered. “Yes, you did it. You blew it all up. That’s what he wants to hear.”

I tell the detective, no, I did not leave the gas on and then leave town. I loved my life. I loved that condo. I loved every stick of furniture

That was my whole life. Everything, the lamps, the chairs, the rugs were me. The dishes in the cabinets were me. The plants were me. The television was me. It was me that blew up. Couldn’t he see that?

The detective said not to leave town.

Chapter 12

Mister his honor, mister chapter president of the local chapter of the national united projectionist and independent theater operators union just sat.

Under and behind and inside everything the man took for granted, something horrible had been growing.

Nothing is static.

Everything is falling apart.

I know this because Tyler knows this.

For three years Tyler had been doing film buildup and breakdown for a chain of movie houses. A movie travels in six or seven small reels packed in a metal case. Tyler’s job was to splice the small reels together into single fivefoot reels that self-threading and rewinding projectors could handle. After three years, seven theaters, at least three screens per theater, new shows every week, Tyler had handled hundreds of prints.

Too bad, but with more self-threading and rewinding projectors, the union didn’t need Tyler anymore. Mister chapter president had to call Tyler in for a little sit-down.

The work was boring and the pay was crap, so the president of the united union of united projection operators independent and united theaters united said it was doing Tyler Durden a chapter favor by giving Tyler the diplomatic shaft.

Don’t think of this as rejection. Think of it as downsizing.

Right up the butt mister chapter president himself says, “We appreciate your contribution to our success.”

Oh, that wasn’t a problem, Tyler said, and grinned. As long as the union kept sending a paycheck, he’d keep his mouth shut.

Tyler said, “Think of this as early retirement, with pension.”

Tyler had handled hundreds of prints.

Movies had gone back to the distributor. Movies had gone back out in re-release. Comedy. Drama. Musicals. Romance. Action adventure.

Spliced with Tyler’s single-frame flashes of pornography.

Sodomy. Fellatio. Cunnilingus. Bondage.

Tyler had nothing to lose.

Tyler was the pawn of the world, everybody’s trash.

This is what Tyler rehearsed me to tell the manager of the Pressman Hotel, too.

At Tyler’s other job, at the Pressman Hotel, Tyler said he was nobody. Nobody cared if he lived or died, and the feeling was fucking mutual. This is what Tyler told me to say in the hotel manager’s office with security guards sitting outside the door.

Tyler and I stayed up late and traded stories after everything was over.

Right after he’d gone to the projectionist union, Tyler had me go and confront the manager of the Pressman Hotel.

Tyler and I were looking more and more like identical twins. Both of us had punched-out cheekbones, and our skin had lost its memory, and forgot where to slide back to after we were hit.

My bruises were from fight club, and Tyler’s face was punched out of shape by the president of the projectionist union. After Tyler crawled out of the union offices, I went to see the manager of the Pressman Hotel.

I sat there, in the office of the manager of the Pressman Hotel.

I am Joe’s Smirking Revenge.

The first thing the hotel manager said was I had three minutes. In the first thirty seconds, I told how I’d been peeing into soup, farting on creme brulees, sneezing on braised endive, and now I wanted the hotel to send me a check every week equivalent to my average week’s pay plus tips. In return, I wouldn’t come to work anymore, and I wouldn’t go to the newspapers or the public health people with a confused, tearful confession.

The headlines:

Troubled Waiter Admits Tainting Food.

Sure, I said, I might go to prison. They could hang me and yank my nuts off and drag me through the streets and flay my skin and burn me with lye, but the Pressman Hotel would always be known as the hotel where the richest people in the world ate pee.

Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth.

And I used to be such a nice person.

At the projectionist union office, Tyler had laughed after the union president punched him. The one punch knocked Tyler out of his chair, and Tyler sat against the wall, laughing.

“Go ahead, you can’t kill me,” Tyler was laughing. “You stupid fuck. Beat the crap out of me, but you can’t kill me.”

You have too much to lose.

I have nothing.

You have everything.

Go ahead, right in the gut. Take another shot at my face. Cave in my teeth, but keep those paychecks coming. Crack my ribs, but if you miss one week’s pay, I go public, and you and your little union go down under lawsuits from every theater owner and film distributor and mommy whose kid maybe saw a hard-on in Bambi.

“I am trash,” Tyler said. “I am trash and shit and crazy to you and this whole fucking world,” Tyler said to the union president. “You don’t care where I live or how I feel, or what I eat or how I feed my kids or how I pay the doctor if I get sick, and yes I am stupid and bored and weak, but I am still your responsibility.”

Sitting in the office at the Pressman Hotel, my fight club lips were still split into about ten segments. The butthole in my cheek looking at the manager of the Pressman Hotel, it was all pretty convincing.

Basically, I said the same stuff Tyler said.

After the union president had slugged Tyler to the floor, after mister president saw Tyler wasn’t fighting back, his honor with his big Cadillac body bigger and stronger than he would ever really need, his honor hauled his wingtip back and kicked Tyler in the ribs and Tyler laughed. His honor shot the wingtip into Tyler’s kidneys after Tyler curled into a ball, but Tyler was still laughing.

“Get it out,” Tyler said. “Trust me. You’ll feel a lot better. You’ll feel great.”

In the office of the Pressman Hotel, I asked the hotel manager if I could use his phone, and I dialed the number for the city desk at the newspaper. With the hotel manager watching, I said:

Hello, I said, I’ve committed a terrible crime against humanity as part of a political protest. My protest is over the exploitation of workers in the service industry.

If I went to prison, I wouldn’t be just an unbalanced peon diddling in the soup. This would have heroic scale.

Robin Hood Waiter Champions Have-Nots.

This would be about a lot more than one hotel and one waiter.

The manager of the Pressman Hotel very gently took the receiver out of my hand. The manager said he didn’t want me working here anymore, not the way I looked now.

I’m standing at the head of the manager’s desk when I say, what?

You don’t like the idea of third …

And without flinching, still looking at the manager, I roundhouse the fist at the centrifugal force end of my arm and slam fresh blood out of the cracked scabs in my nose.

For no reason at all, I remember the night Tyler and I had our first fight. I want you to hit me as hard as you can.

This isn’t such a hard punch. I punch myself, again. It just looks good, all the blood, but I throw myself back against the wall to make a terrible noise and break the painting that hangs there.

The broken glass and frame and the painting of flowers and blood go to the floor with me clowning around. I’m being such a doofus. Blood gets on the carpet and I reach up and grip monster handprints of blood on the edge of the hotel manager’s desk and say, please, help me, but I start to giggle.

Help me, please.

Please don’t hit me, again.

I slip back to the floor and crawl my blood across the carpet. The first word I’m going to say is please. So I keep my lips shut. The monster drags itself across the lovely bouquets and garlands of the Oriental carpet. The blood falls out of my nose and slides down the back of my throat and into my mouth, hot. The monster crawls across the carpet, hot and picking up the lint and dust sticking to the blood on its claws. And it crawls close enough to grab the manager of the Pressman Hotel around his pinstriped ankle and say it. Money. And I giggle, again.

Please.

Say it.

Please comes out in a bubble of blood.

Say it.

Please.

And the bubble pops blood all over.

And this is how Tyler was free to start a fight club every night of the week. After this there were seven fight clubs, and after that there were fifteen fight clubs, and after that, there were twenty-three fight clubs, and Tyler wanted more. There was always money coming in.

Please, I ask the manager of the Pressman Hotel, give me the …

Please.

You have so much, and I have nothing. And I start to climb my blood up the pinstriped legs of the manager of the Pressman Hotel who is leaning back, hard, with his hands on the windowsill behind him and even his thin lips retreating from his teeth.

The monster hooks its bloody claw in the waistband of the manager’s pants, and pulls itself up to clutch the white starched shirt, and l wrap my bloody hands around the manager’s smooth wrists.


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