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Chapter 8

In South America, Land of Enchantment, we could be wading in a river where tiny fish will swim up Tyler’s urethra. The fish have barbed spines that flare out and back so once they’re up Tyler, the fish set up housekeeping and get ready to lay their eggs. In so many ways, how we spent Saturday night could be worse.

“It could’ve been worse,” Tyler says, “what we did with Marla’s mother.”
I say, shut up.
Tyler says, the French government could’ve taken us to an underground complex outside of Paris where not even surgeons but semiskilled technicians would razor our eyelids off as part of toxicity testing an aerosol tanning spray.

“This stuff happens,” Tyler says. “Read the newspaper.”


What’s worse is I knew what Tyler had been up to with Marla’s mother, but for the first time since I’ve known him, Tyler had some oval play money. Tyler was making real bucks. Nordstrom’s called and left an order for two hundred bars of Tyler’s brown sugar facial soap before Christmas. At twenty bucks a bar, suggested retail price, we had money to go out on Saturday night. Money to fix the leak in the gas line. Go dancing. Without money to worry about, maybe I could quit my job.
Tyler calls himself the Paper Street Soap Company. People are saying it’s the best soap ever.
“What would’ve been worse,” Tyler says, “is if you had accidentally eaten Marla’s mother.”
Through a mouthful of Kung Pao Chicken, I say to just shut the hell up.
Where we are this Saturday night is the front seat of a 1968 Impala sitting on two flats in the front row of a used-car lot. Tyler and me, we’re talking, drinking beer out of cans, and the front seat of this Impala is bigger than most people’s sofas. The car lots up and down this part of the boulevard, in the industry they call these lots the Pot Lots where the cars all cost around two hundred dollars and during the day, the gypsy guys who run these lots stand around in their plywood offices smoking long, thin cigars.

The cars are the beater first cars kids drive in high school: Gremlins and Pacers, Mavericks and Hornets, Pintos, International Harvester pickup trucks, lowered Camaros and Dusters and Impalas. Cars that people loved and then dumped. Animals at the pound. Bridesmaid dresses at the Goodwill. With dents and gray or red or black primer quarter panels and rocker panels and lumps of body putty that nobody ever got around to sanding. Plastic wood and plastic leather and plastic chrome interiors. At night, the gypsy guys don’t even lock the car doors.

The headlights on the boulevard go by behind the price painted on the Impala-big wraparound Cinemascope windshield. See the U.S.A. The price is ninety-eight dollars. From the inside, this looks like eightynine cents. Zero, zero, decimal point, eight, nine. America is asking you to call.

Most of the cars here are about a hundred dollars, and all the cars have an “AS IS” sales agreement hanging in the driver’s window.


We chose the Impala because if we have to sleep in a car on Saturday night, this car has the biggest seats.
We’re eating Chinese because we can’t go home. It was either sleep here, or stay up all night at an after-hours dance club. We don’t go to dance clubs. Tyler says the music is so loud, especially the base tracks, that it screws with his biorhythm. The last time we went out, Tyler said the loud music made him constipated. This, and the club is too loud to talk, so after a couple of drinks, everyone feels like the center of attention but completely cutoff from participating with anyone else.
You’re the corpse in an English murder mystery.
We’re sleeping in a car tonight because Marla came to the house and threatened to call the police and have me arrested for cooking her mother, and then Marla slammed around the house, screaming that I was a ghoul and a cannibal and she went kicking through the piles of Reader’s Digest and National Geographic, and then I left her there. In a nutshell.
After her accidental on-purpose suicide with Xanax at the Regent Hotel, I can’t imagine Marla calling the police, but Tyler thought it would be good to sleep out, tonight. Just in case.

Just in case Marla burns the house down.


Just in case Marla goes out and finds a gun.
Just in case Marla is still in the house.
Just in case.
I try to get centered:
Watching white moon face The stars never feel anger Blah, blah, blah, the end

Here, with the cars going by on the boulevard and a beer in my hand in the Impala with its cold, hard Bakelite steering wheel maybe three feet in diameter and the cracked vinyl seat pinching my ass through my jeans, Tyler says, “One more time. Tell me exactly what happened.”


For weeks, I ignored what Tyler had been up to. One time, I went with Tyler to the Western Union office and watched as he sent Marla’s mother a telegram.

HIDEOUSLY WRINKLED (stop)


PLEASE HELP ME!
(end)
Tyler had showed the clerk Marla’s library card and signed Marla’s name to the telegram order, and yelled, yes, Marla can be a guy’s name sometimes, and the clerk could just mind his own business.
When we were leaving the Western Union, Tyler said if I loved him, I’d trust him. This wasn’t something I needed to know about, Tyler told me and he took me to Garbonzo’s for hummus.
What really scared me wasn’t the telegram as much as it was eating out with Tyler. Never, no, never had Tyler ever paid cash for anything, or clothes, Tyler goes to gyms and hotels and claims clothing out of the lost and found. This is better than Marla, who goes to Laundromats to steal jeans out of the dryers and sell them at twelve dollars a pair to those places that buy used jeans. Tyler never ate in restaurants, and Marla wasn’t wrinkled.
For no apparent reason, Tyler sent Marla’s mother a fifteen-pound box of chocolates.
Another way this Saturday night could be worse, Tyler tells me in the Impala, is the brown recluse spider. When it bites you, it injects not just a venom but a digestive enzyme or acid that dissolves the tissue around the bite, literally melting your arm or your leg or your face. Tyler was hiding out tonight when this all started. Marla showed up at the house. Without even knocking, Marla leans inside the front door and shouts, “Knock, knock.”

I’m reading Reader’s Digest in the kitchen. I am totally nonplussed.


Marla yells, “Tyler. Can I come in? Are you home?”
I yell, Tyler’s not home.
Marla yells, “Don’t be mean.”
By now, I’m at the front door. Marla’s standing in the foyer with a Federal Express overnight package, and says, “I needed to put something in your freezer.”

I dog her heels on the way to the kitchen, saying, no.


No.
No.
No.
She is not going to start keeping her junk in this house.
“But Pumpkin,” Marla says, “I don’t have a freezer at the hotel, and you said I could.”
No, I did not. The last thing I want is Marla moving in, one piece of crap at a time.
Marla has her Federal Express package ripped open on the kitchen table, and she lifts something white out of the Styrofoam packing peanuts and shakes this white thing in my face. “This is not crap,” she says. “This is my mother you’re talking about so just fuck off.”
What Marla lifts out of the package, it’s one of those sandwich bags of white stuff that Tyler rendered for tallow to make soap.
“Things would’ve been worse,” Tyler says, “if you’d accidentally eaten what was in one of those sandwich bags. If you’d got up in the middle of the night sometime, and squeezed out the white goo and added California onion soup mix and eaten it as a dip with potato chips. Or broccoli.”
More than anything in the world right then, while Marla and I were standing in the kitchen, I didn’t want Marla to open the freezer.
I asked, what was she going to do with the white stuff?
“Paris lips,” Marla said. “As you get older, your lips pull inside your mouth. I’m saving for a collagen lip injection. I have almost thirty pounds of collagen in your freezer.”
I asked, how big of lips did she want?

Marla said it was the operation itself that scared her.


The stuff in the Federal Express package, I tell Tyler in the Impala, that was the same stuff we made soap out of. Ever since silicone turned out to be dangerous, collagen has become the hot item to I have injected to smooth out wrinkles or to puff up thin lips or weak chins. The way Marla had explained it, most collagen you get cheap from cow fat that’s been sterilized and processed, but that kind of cheap collagen doesn’t last very long in your body. Wherever you get injected, say in your lips, your body rejects it and starts to poop it out. Six months later, you have thin lips, again.
The best kind of collagen, Marla said, is your own fat, sucked out of your thighs, processed and cleaned and injected back into your lips, or wherever. This kind of collagen will last.
This stuff in the fridge at home, it was Marla’s collagen trust fund. Whenever her mom grew any extra fat, she had it sucked out and packaged. Marla says the process is called gleaning. If Marla’s mom doesn’t need the collagen herself, she sends the packets to Marla. Marla never has any fat of her own, and her mom figures that familial collagen would be better than Marla ever having to use the cheap cow kind.
Streetlight along the boulevard comes through the sales agreement in the window and prints “AS IS” on Tyler’s cheek.
“Spiders,” Tyler says, “could lay their eggs and larva could tunnel, under your skin. That’s how bad your life can get.”

Right now, my Almond Chicken in its warm, creamy sauce tastes like something sucked out of Marla’s mother’s thighs.

It was right then, standing in the kitchen with Marla, that I knew what Tyler had done.
HIDEOUSLY WRINKLED.
And I knew why he sent candy to Marla’s mother.
PLEASE HELP.
I say, Marla, you don’t want to look in the freezer.
Marla says, “Do what?”
“We never eat red meat,” Tyler tells me in the Impala, and he can’t use chicken fat or the soap won’t harden into a bar. “The stuff,” Tyler says, “is making us a fortune. We paid the rent with that collagen.”
I say, you should’ve told Marla. Now she thinks I did it.
“Saponification,” Tyler says, “is the chemical reaction you need to make good soap. Chicken fat won’t work or any fat with too much salt.

“Listen,” Tyler says. “We have a big order to fill. What we’ll do is send Marla’s mom some chocolates and probably some fruitcakes.”


I don’t think that will work, anymore.
Long story short, Marla looked in the freezer. Okay, there was a little scuffle, first. I try to stop her, and the bag she’s holding gets dropped and breaks open on the linoleum and we both slip in the greasy white mess and come up gagging. I have Marla around the waist from behind, her black hair whipping my face, her arms pinned to her sides, and I’m saying over and over, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.
I didn’t do it.
“My mother! You’re spilling her all over!”
We needed to make soap, I say with my face pressed up behind her car. We needed to wash my pants, to pay the rent, to fix the leak in the gas line. It wasn’t me.
It was Tyler.
Marla screams, “What are you talking about?” and twists out of her skirt. I’m scrambling to get up off the greased floor with an armful of Marla’s India cotton print skirt, and Marla in her panties and wedgie Feels and peasant blouse throws open the freezer part of the fridge, and inside there’s no collagen trust fund.

There’s two old flashlight batteries, but that’s all.


“Where is she?”
I’m already crawling backwards, my hands slipping, my shoes slipping on the linoleum, and my ass wiping a clean path across the dirty Moor away from Marla and the fridge. I hold up the skirt so I don’t Dave to see Marla’s face when I tell her.
The truth.
We made soap out of it. Her. Marla’s mother.
“Soap?”
Soap. You boil fat. You mix it with lye. You get soap.
When Marla screams, I throw the skirt in her face and run. I slip. I run.

Around and around the first floor, Marla runs after me, skidding in the corners, pushing off against the window casings for momentum. Slipping.


Leaving filthy handprints of grease and floor dirt among the wallpaper flowers. Falling and sliding into the wainscoting, getting back up, running.
Marla screaming, “You boiled my mother!”

Tyler boiled her mother.


Marla screaming, always one swipe of her fingernails behind me.
Tyler boiled her mother.
“You boiled my mother!”
The front door was still open.
And then I was out the front door with Marla screaming in the doorway behind me. My feet didn’t slip against the concrete sidewalk, and I just kept running. Until I found Tyler or until Tyler found me, and I told him what happened.
With one beer each, Tyler and I spread out on the front and back seats with me in the front seat. Even now, Marla’s probably still in the house, throwing magazines against the walls and screaming how I’m a prick and a monster two-faced capitalist suck-ass bastard. The miles of night between Marla and me offer insects and melanomas and flesh-eating viruses. Where I’m at isn’t so bad.
“When a man is hit by lightning,” Tyler says, “his head burns down to a smoldering baseball and his zipper welds itself shut.”

I say, did we hit bottom, tonight?


Tyler lies back and asks, “If Marilyn Monroe was alive right now, what would she be doing?”
I say, goodnight.
The headliner hangs down in shreds from the ceiling, and Tyler says, “Clawing at the lid of her coffin.”

Chapter 9

My boss stands too close to my desk with his little smile, his lips together and stretched thin, his crotch at my elbow. I look up from writing the cover letter for a recall campaign. These letters always begin the same way:


“This notice is sent to you in accordance with the requirements of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act. We have determined that a defect exists … “
This week I ran the liability formula, and for once A times B times C equaled more than the cost of a recall.

This week, it’s the little plastic clip that holds the rubber blade on your windshield wipers. A throwaway item. Only two hundred vehicles affected. Next to nothing for the labor cost.

Last week was more typical. Last week the issue was some leather cured with a known teratogenic substance, synthetic Nirret or something just as illegal that’s still used in third world tanning. Something so strong that it could cause birth defects in the fetus of any pregnant woman who comes across it. Last week, nobody called the Department of Transportation. Nobody initiated a recall.

New leather multiplied by labor cost multiplied by administration cost would equal more than our first-quarter profits. If anyone ever discovers our mistake, we can still pay off a lot of grieving families before we come close to the cost of retrofitting sixty-five hundred leather interiors.

But this week, we’re doing a recall campaign. And this week the insomnia is back. Insomnia, and now the whole world figures to stop by and take a dump on my grave.
My boss is wearing his gray tie so today must be a Tuesday.
My boss brings a sheet of paper to my desk and asks if I’m looking for something. This paper was left in the copy machine, he says, and begins to read:
“The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”
His eyes go side to side across the paper, and he giggles.
“The second rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”
I hear Tyler’s words come out of my boss, Mister Boss with his midlife spread and family photo on his desk and his dreams about early retirement and winters spent at a trailer-park hookup in some Arizona desert. My boss, with his extra-starched shirts and standing appointment for a haircut every Tuesday after lunch, he looks at me, and he says:

“I hope this isn’t yours.”


I am Joe’s Blood-Boiling Rage.
Tyler asked me to type up the fight club rules and make him ten copies. Not nine, not eleven. Tyler says, ten. Still, I have the insomnia, and can’t remember sleeping since three nights ago. This must be the original I typed. I made ten copies, and forgot the original. The paparazzi flash of the copy machine in my face. The insomnia distance of everything, a copy of a copy of a copy. You can’t touch anything, and nothing can touch you.
My boss reads:
“The third rule of fight club is two men per fight.”
Neither of us blinks.
My boss reads:

“One fight at a time.”


I haven’t slept in three days unless I’m sleeping now. My boss shakes the paper under my nose. What about it, he says. Is this some little game I’m playing on company time? I’m paid for my full attention, not to waste time with little war games. And I’m not paid to abuse the copy machines.
What about it? He shakes the paper under my nose. What do I think, he asks, what should he do with an employee who spends company time in some little fantasy world. If I was in his shoes, what would I do?
What would I do?
The hole in my cheek, the blue-black swelling around my eyes, and the swollen red scar of Tyler’s kiss on the back of my hand, a copy of a copy of a copy.
Speculation.
Why does Tyler want ten copies of the fight club rules?
Hindu cow.
What I would do, I say, is I’d be very careful who I talked to about this paper.
I say, it sounds like some dangerous psychotic killer wrote this, and this buttoned-down schizophrenic could probably go over the edge at any moment in the working day and stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-180 carbine gas-operated semiautomatic.
My boss just looks at me.
The guy, I say, is probably at home every night with a little rattail file, filing a cross into the tip of every one of his rounds. This way, when he shows up to work one morning and pumps a round into his nagging, ineffectual, petty, whining, butt-sucking, candy-ass boss, that one round will split along the filed grooves and spread open the way a dumdum bullet flowers inside you to blow a bushel load of your stinking guts out through your spine. Picture your gut chakra opening in a slow-motion explosion of sausage-casing small intestine.
My boss takes the paper out from under my nose.
Go ahead, I say, read some more.
No really, I say, it sounds fascinating. The work of a totally diseased mind.
And I smile. The little butthole-looking edges of the hole in my cheek are the same blue-black as a dog’s gums. The skin stretched tight across the swelling around my eyes feels varnished.
My boss just looks at me.
Let me help you, I say.
I say, the fourth rule of fight club is one fight at a time.
My boss looks at the rules and then looks at me.
I say, the fifth rule is no shoes, no shirts in the fight.
My boss looks at the rules and looks at me.
Maybe, I say, this totally diseased fuck would use an Eagle Apache carbine because an Apache takes a thirty-shot mag and only weighs nine pounds. The Armalite only takes a five-round magazine. With thirty shots, our totally fucked hero could go the length of mahogany row and take out every vice president with a cartridge left over for each director.
Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth. I used to be such a nice person.
I just look at my boss. My boss has blue; blue, pale cornflower blue eyes.
The J and R 68 semiautomatic carbine also takes a thirty-shot mag, and it only weighs seven pounds.
My boss just looks at me.

It’s scary, I say. This is probably somebody he’s known for years. Probably this guy knows all about him, where he lives, and where his wife works and his kids go to school.


This is exhausting, and all of a sudden very, very boring.
And why does Tyler need ten copies of the fight club rules?
What I don’t have to say is I know about the leather interiors that cause birth defects. I know about the counterfeit brake linings that looked good enough to pass the purchasing agent, but fail after two thousand miles.
I know about the air-conditioning rheostat that gets so hot it sets fire to the maps in your glove compartment. I know how many people burn alive because of fuel-injector flashback. I’ve seen people’s legs cut off at the knee when turbochargers start exploding and send their vanes through the firewall and into the passenger compartment. I’ve been out in the field and seen the burned-up cars and seen the reports where CAUSE OF FAILURE is recorded as “unknown.”
No, I say, the paper’s not mine. I take the paper between two fingers and jerk it out of his hand. The edge must slice his thumb because his hand flies to his mouth, and he’s sucking hard, eyes wide open. I crumble the paper into a ball and toss it into the trash can next to my desk.
Maybe, I say, you shouldn’t be bringing me every little piece of trash you pick up.

Sunday night, I go to Remaining Men Together and the basement of Trinity Episcopal is almost empty. Just Big Bob, and I come dragging in with every muscle bruised inside and out, but my heart’s still racing and my thoughts are a tornado in my head. This is insomnia. All night, your thoughts are on the air.


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.
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.

Каталог: wp-content -> uploads -> 2017
2017 -> Свод правил по безопасной работе сотрудников органов исполнительной власти Самарской области, государственных органов Самарской области
2017 -> Руководство по эксплуатации общие сведения. «Жидкий акрил»
2017 -> О восстановлении пропущенного срока на подачу апелляционной жалобы
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