"Something on your mind, dear?"
We say nothing. We don't know what he's talking about. There's a pause, not a significant one, not one we need to fill.
"Yeah," Tyler says suddenly. "Why wasn't I told about Project Mayhem?"
We take the cue.
"The first Rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions, sir!"
"What're you talking about?" he snaps. He's not making sense. We shut the hell up. We're pretty sure he's talking to himself. Tyler goes a little crazy sometimes. It's usually harmless. We ignore it because Tyler always knows what he's talking about. Once, just after the first mission the Destruction Committee pulled, just for a second, Tyler stopped being Tyler. We were watching the only television on Paper Street, cheering as the image of a grinning, neon face with eyes ablaze appeared on screen, and Tyler just stood there, gaping, disbelief covering his face like an ether soaked rag.
We all stopped laughing.
"What the fuck did you guys do?"
"Sir," Bob started slowly, "the first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions, sir."
Tyler was with us. Tyler was spitting sermons over our heads as we repelled down the walls of that skyscraper, risking our lives for Project Mayhem, for him. Then he turned around and demanded answers. It was a test. It had to be. Tyler just goes a little crazy sometimes.
Tyler says that in Project Mayhem we have no names but some people do, we just don't use them. We all know Bob and we all know Angel Face. Bob kept his tits and Angel Face kept his hair. It was a topic of anti-conversation; things we all knew without ever knowing who said it first and never so much as implied around Tyler. We never said it but we were aware of the favoritism.
Tyler and Bob both had cancer.
Tyler saved Bob's life, or Bob saved Tyler's.
Bob was Tyler's bastard brother.
Maybe all of it was true. Maybe none of it was.
Angel face was another story. Tyler was always quick to praise him and no one was sure why. It made us a little jealous but it wasn't long before we realized that it didn't matter and if Tyler thought Angel Face was worthy then he must've been. Tyler's word was law. There was no "I" in Project Mayhem. No "you" or "me" just "us". We were Project Mayhem. Space monkeys ready to die without understanding why. Tyler understood for us.
Some guys didn't get Project Mayhem. They walked away before the three days ended, or they never got recruited in the first place. Some guys were just part of Fight Club and they always asked, do you know about Tyler Durden? Yeah, we knew. We knew better than almost anyone. We knew everything there was to know, except the things he knew so we didn't have to. One time, some guy asked, "Sir, what was your first fight? Who was it with?" and with a lazy shrug, he said, "Tyler Durden, of course."
Tyler doesn't always make sense, but he always knows what he's taking about.
In the car, he's spinning the wheel like a game show, letting the vehicle drift slowly into the other lane. He demands, "Is this about you and me?"
His voice changes, quieter, angrier, "I thought we were doing this together."
Then again, it's like someone else is speaking, "You're missing the point. This does not belong to us! We are not special! Fuck that!"
Lights flood the windshield. We hold our collective breath. Last second. Impact imminent. Tyler swings the wheel in a moment of panic, shouting, "Damn it, Tyler!"
He keeps going in an endless rant of voices and expressions, waving his arms and slamming the dash. "What do you want?! A 'Statement of Purpose'? Should I email you? Should I put this on your primary items list? You decide your own level of involvement – I want to know certain things first!"
We jump in, well trained monkeys. "Sir! The first rule of Project Mayhem is-"
"Shut up!" He shakes his head. His hands clench the steering wheel. "Fuck what you know! That's your problem. Forget what you know about life, about friendship, and especially about you and me."
We feel the need to say "Yes, Mr. Durden!" but our lips stay closed tight, locked down until our anti-thoughts are beckoned forward.
"Guys," Tyler says slowly. He lifts both hands away from the wheel. "What do you wish you'd done before you die?"
We see the lights of oncoming traffic, staring eyes of yellow, motorized monsters on a nonstop collision course. We don't feel fear. We aren't supposed to feel anything.
"Paint a self-portrait," one of us answers and then, "Build a house."
"And you?" Tyler asks quietly. Who are you talking to, Mr. Durden? "You have to know the answer to this question. If you were to die right now, how would you feel about your life?"
We're driving on an empty road in the dead of night, rain pouring, moon absent, and the leader of Project Mayhem, the man considered a god by every man in the city, is driving in the right hand lane, and talking to himself. We know this. We understand and we do nothing about it. We ignore it. Tyler just goes a little crazy sometimes. It's usually harmless.
"Is that what you want to hear me say!" Tyler's yells and suddenly his hands are gripping the wheel in desperation. Our hands twitch for seatbelts. We struggle to stay still. He yells again, "Fine!" and then quietly, "Not good enough," and loudly again, "Come on! Stop fucking around!"
A truck is rushing to greet us, head on, horning blaring. Again he swerves, last minute, shouting and hitting the wheel. "Fuck! Fuck Fight Club! Fuck Marla! I am sick of all your shit!"
Then he laughs and it sounds like broken teeth and blood bubbling from a hole in your cheek. It sounds like a skull hitting the hot, hard cement floor of a bar in the middle of the night. He raises both hands into the air, laughing, saying, look at you, you're pathetic, why do you think I blew up your condo?
What are you talking about, Mr. Durden? Why are your asking questions. Why are you breaking the rules? Is this a test?
"Hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat. It's not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go. Let go!"
Alright. Okay, Tyler. We're letting go. We lean back because we think we understand now. Tyler goes a little crazy sometimes, maybe everyone should. Maybe if we roll into stationary cars and crack our heads on front seats, and split each other's lips in bar brawls, or just spend time having anti-conversation with ourselves, then we'll know. Maybe, we'll understand what Tyler understands. Tyler goes a little crazy sometimes, but it turns out fine. So we ignore it.
If we ignore it we're closer to hitting bottom. We're closing to having a near-life experience.