Two screens into my demo to Microsoft, I taste blood and have to start swallowing. My boss doesn't know the material, but he won't let me run the demo with a black eye and half my face swollen from the stitches inside my cheek. The stitches have come loose, and I can feel them with my tongue against the inside of my cheek. Picture snarled fishing line on the beach. I can picture them as the black stitches on a dog after it's been fixed, and I keep swallowing blood. My boss is making the presentation from my script, and I'm running the laptop projector so I'm off to one side of the room, in the dark.
More of my lips are sticky with blood as I try to lick the blood off, and when the lights come up, I will turn to consultants Ellen and Walter and Norbert and Linda from Microsoft and say, thank you for coming, my mouth shining with blood and blood climbing the cracks between my teeth.
You can swallow about a pint of blood before you're sick.
Fight club is tomorrow, and I'm not going to miss fight club.
Before the presentation, Walter from Microsoft smiles his steam shovel jaw like a marketing tool tanned the color of a barbecued potato chip. Walter with his signet ring shakes my hand, wrapped in his smooth soft hand and says, "I'd hate to see what happened to the other guy."
The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.
I tell Walter I fell.
I did this to myself.
Before the presentation, when I sat across from my boss, telling him where in the script each line cues and when I wanted to run the video segment, my boss says, "What do you get yourself into every weekend?"
I just don't want to die without a few scars, I say. It's nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer's showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.
The second rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.
Maybe at lunch, the waiter comes to your table and the waiter has the two black eyes of a giant panda from fight club last weekend when you saw him get his head pinched between the concrete floor and the knee of a two-hundred-pound stock boy who kept slamming a fist into the bridge of the waiter's nose again and again in flat hard packing sounds you could hear over all the yelling until the waiter caught enough breath and sprayed blood to say, stop.
You don't say anything because fight club exists only in the hours between when fight club starts and when fight club ends.
You saw the kid who works in the copy centre, a month ago you saw this kid who can't remember to three-punch-hole an order or put colored slip sheets between the copy packets, but this kid was a god for ten minutes when you saw him kick the air out of an accountant representative twice his size then land on the man and pound him limp until the kid had to stop. That's the third rule in fight club, when someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is over. Every time you see this kid, you can't tell him what a great fight he had.
Only two guys to a fight. One fight at a time. They fight without shirts or shoes. The fights go on as long as they have to. Those are the other rules of fight club.
Who guys are in fight club is not who they are in the real world. Even if you told the kid in the copy centre that he had a good fight, you wouldn't be talking to the same man.
Who I am in fight club is not someone my boss knows.
After a night in fight club, everything in the real world gets the volume turned down. Nothing can piss you off. Your word is law, and if other people break that law or question you, even that doesn't piss you off.
In the real world, I'm a recall campaign coordinator in a shirt and tie, sitting in the dark with a mouthful of blood and changing the overheads and slides as my boss tells Microsoft how he chose a particular shade of pale cornflower blue for an icon.
The first fight club was just Tyler and I pounding on each other.
It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn't toeing my five-year-plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I'd be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. Since fight club, I can wiggle half the teeth in my jaw.
Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer.
Tyler never knew his father.
Maybe self-destruction is the answer.
Tyler and I still go to fight club, together. Fight club is in the basement of a bar, now, after the bar closes on Saturday night, and every week you go and there's more guys there.
Tyler gets under the one light in the middle of the black concrete basement and he can see that light flickering back out of the dark in a hundred pairs of eyes. First thing Tyler yells is, "The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club."
"The second rule about fight club," Tyler yells, "is you don't talk about fight club."
Me, I knew my dad for about six years, but I don't remember anything. My dad, he starts a new family in a new town about every six years. This isn't so much like a family as it's like he sets up a franchise.
What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women.
Tyler standing under the one night in the after-midnight blackness of a basement full of men, Tyler runs through the other rules: two men per fight, one fight at a time, no shoes or shirts, fights go on as long as they have to.
"And the seventh rule," Tyler yells, "is if this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight."
Fight club is not football on television. You aren't watching a bunch of men you don't know halfway around the world beating on each other live by satellite with a two-minute delay, commercials pitching beer every ten minutes, and a pause now for station identification. After you've been to fight club, watching football on television is watching pornography when you could be having great sex.
Fight club gets to be your reason for going to the gym and keeping your hair cut short and cutting your nails. The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says.
Like Tyler says, even a souffle looks pumped.
My father never went to college so it was really important I go to college. After college, I called him long distance and said, now what? My father didn't know.
When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long distance, I said, now what? My father didn't know, so he said, get married.
I'm a thirty-year-old boy, and I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer I need.
What happens at fight club doesn't happen in words. Some guys need a fight every week. This week, Tyler says it's the first fifty guys through the door and that's it. No more.
Last week, I tapped a guy and he and I got on the list for a fight. The guy must've had a bad week, got both my arms behind my head in a full nelson and rammed my face into the concrete floor until my teeth bit open the inside of my cheek and my eye was swollen shut and was bleeding, and after I said, stop, I could look down and there was a print of half my face in blood on the floor.
Tyler stood next to me, both of us looking down at the big O of my mouth with blood all around it and the little slit of my eye staring up at us from the floor, and Tyler says. "Cool."
I shake the guy's hand and say, good fight.
This guy, he says, "How about next week?"
I try to smile against all the swelling, and I say, look at me. How about next month?
About the book:
Fight club is the book that inspired thousands of young men around the world to take legal action to change their names to 'Tyler Durden'. It's an outrageously reckless roller-coaster ride where nihilism has you by the balls even after you've finished reading it.
Snippet from The Underground Railroad
- Colson Whitehead
Snippet from Far From the Madding Crowd
- Thomas Hardy