The steering wheel begins to slip. No hands. Motion in darkness. Headlights and horns.

“Guys, what would you wish you’d done before you died?

“Paint a self-portrait.” “Build a house.”

“You?”

I don’t know. Nothing. Nothing, come on, get in the right lane.”

Swerve.

“You have to know the answer to this question! If you were to die right now, how would you feel about your life?

“I don’t know. I wouldn’t feel anything good about my life. Is that what you wanted to hear me say? Fine.“

And I cringe, trying to keep this hollow feeling of disgust from my stomach before it explodes. I’m right with you there, Mr. Norton. I don’t know either.

Nothing. I wouldn’t feel anything good about my life.

I watched Fight Club for the first time with some high school friends in a second-run theatre over Xmas break about a year ago, at the heart of the lowest of my lows I’d ever had. I watched it sometime about six months before I changed every single thing in my life that I could to get myself out of this hole of worthlessness and stagnation that had been turning me colder and colder for months.

I swallowed and I curled, unable to believe I could feel so small. I couldn’t think of anything. I felt absolutely nothing good about my life, and I was scared scared scared scared scared to the point of convulsion and cowardice and pain of dying. Scared of dying. Funny how we’re most terrified of death when we have nothing to lose. I was crying in a darkened movie theatre.

How could you do this?

I was terrified of dying so I clung to the pathetic shell that was that life because I felt I had done nothing. Absolutely nothing. I felt I had nothing to show for myself. My life was a waste of this pathetic world and I was a horrible slobbering creature too afraid of the light to stick my head out of my cave, lost in its tears and in sweat of nothingness. And I wanted to die. Dying would get me out. Dying would be easy.

But there would be nothing to show. No reason to say I lived.

I saw the film again a couple months later, and I still couldn’t think of anything either.

"With a gun in your mouth, you speak only in vowels."

How long do you have to feel like shit before it snaps?

I was a the strangest point in my life, and it was a crossroads. It was a crossroads to not follow into my mother’s footsteps and become a shell of unhappiness lit by a strange and unidentifiable spark that won’t go away no matter the misery. I was in a relationship that was going nowhere. No, it was going somewhere, and it was down and down and down all the way. It was like my father. My lover was pulling me and I was letting myself fall into this pit of self-loathing and isolation, afraid of the world outside. I was in a field of study that was sucking my life away because it didn’t let me make anything. I was working and couldn’t find joy.

I felt nothing good about my life. And this was the first time anyone had put it into words. How can you fear dying when there’s nothing like life in your world? Afraid to lose because you aren’t really sure you have?

"You have a kind of sick desperation in your laugh."

It didn’t take a near life experience. It didn’t take a complex personality disorder or insomnia. I left the continent and felt Caribbean warmth and began to wake up. I lost my lover by telling him to go away. I fell in love for the first time in ages and cried and cried and cried when I looked back at the year behind me and felt the stillness of all of it. I hadn’t felt a thing in a year. I always thought I was so strong.

I had died. And that’s why I was afraid of death. I saw Fight Club for a third time and laughed and laughed and laughed at the sickness and the irreverence for all that our society holds sacred. I laughed. And I started to think of things...

I became an artist. I started writing again. I made friends and had lovers and felt so much I could cry all the way home, and I saw death when a father of a friend commit suicide. So much horribleness has happened.

I have never felt more alive.

Perspective is everything.

I saw Fight Club last night. And I still can’t think of anything. I can’t think of anything! But I can feel. I am whole. I’m a little bit whole. I can’t think of anything because there’s nothing right now that I could have done with my life that I haven’t. No regrets. That’s how I always used to live, and I think I can find it again. Oh sure, there's stuff I want to do before I die. But nothing I could look back on and say 'I wish I had done that while I had the chance'. It's stuff I look forward to doing when I'm ready, someday, someday far away. I don’t want to die yet. I have a lot more work still to do. I want to marry and have children and see what they grow up to be. I want to make something. I want to love and to cry and be real. But in the end, I am. I haven’t lost anything. And I came through to the other side.

I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to. Having something to lose means I did something right. I can die knowing that. I did something right.

“If you were to die right now, how would you feel about your life?”

I feel pretty fucking good, Mr. Durden. Pretty fucking good.

How did Fight Club change my life? It asked the question. And it took a while, but once it was asked, I had to find the answer.

So I wrote 'I still can’t think of anything, or how Fight Club changed my life'.

I'm a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm
I'm a runaway son of the nuclear a-bomb


I have finally seen Fight Club. And while for most people, it was a revelation--the way The Matrix is a revelation for some people--for it me, it was a strange, confirming experience.

About a month ago, I was in the supermarket. I hate going, because I hate spending money on something so disposable as food. This sounds strange. I need food to survive, but I'd rather take the money and buy a CD/DVD/book. Why?

So I'm in the supermarket, trying to decide whether I really need those bagels or not. Suddenly, something blue and white catches my eye: on sale, there were sets of Blue Willow dinnerware. For $2.99 American, you can have a Blue Willow dishset: one dinner plate, one cup, and one saucer. Other dishes sold separately, but usually in a two-pack. So I buy four of the special sets, and two sets of a salad plate set, and two sets of a fruit/cereal bowl set. Now, I promptly brought them home and wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a box, for the day when I move out of my capitalist commune (I live with three other girls, none of whom are too big on the idea of sharing, unless it happens to be my stuff). Why?

I have every R.E.M., Replacements, and Nirvana album, and many bootlegs. I have rare books on Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology. I have hard-to-find films such as the government propaganda film Hemp For Victory from WWII. Why? I have more books, movies, and albums than I can count. Why? I have prints of various paintings. I have a faux-cherry wood computer desk, given to me by my parents. I am attatched to these things. Why?

Why do I have a job? Not a career, a job. Why? Because I have to pay rent. Utilities. Why? Because I wanted to move out of my parents' house. Why? Because I was tired of living with their rules. Why? Because I like to stay out late, and I don't want to be harrassed for it. Why? Because I like my lifestyle. Why? I don't know. I can't think of an answer. Yes you can.

I am the world's forgotten boy
The one who searches and destroys

Because I cultivate an image. Everything you do is the cultivation of an image. You do it because you like the impression people get of you. I cultivate the image of this wild girl who doesn't give a fuck. Who drinks, smokes, does drugs, has lots of sex. Whether this image is real or not isn't important (except to my liver and other organs). What is imporant is that the image exists.

Why?

Why? I don't know. Wait. I do know. When I was a kid, I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw Indiana Jones, the coolest, smartest guy in the world find rare items and fight Nazis. And he had a cool, hard-drinking girlfriend. I wanted to be that girlfriend, except I didn't want to be rescued, like she had to be. I wanted to be Indy. I wanted to be a combination of the two characters. I wanted to be the girl, but I wanted to have adventures. To be cool, world-traveling, hard-drinking, sexual. This caused problems, not only due to a certain Catholic morality in my family, but also due to my being a girl, trying to transgress certain boundaries, which alienate me from men, from them wanting anything to do with me as more than a drinking buddy or quick fuck. (This does leave a girl lonely though I would drown it out.)

Honey gotta help me please!
Somebody gotta save my soul!
Baby detonate for me!

So, trying to live such a lifestyle, I pissed off my parents. Mind you, there was also a certain, um, scholarly aspect to all this. In traveling, I had specific goals in mind--certain spots had certain reasons for going, particularly places like Glastonbury or Tintagel in the UK. This was fine. Staying out late, well, that I could justify as studying a certain type of person. But I was that person.

And the things I own, do they go with this image? What I described above--rare albums (not just R.E.M.--also The Velvet Underground, other stuff I don't feel like cataloging), rare books, rare movies. I collect rare things. I am a cultural archaeologist.

So wait--you're talking about how Raiders of the Lost Ark changed your life, not Fight Club--where does Fight Club fit in all this?

I'll tell you.

Yesterday, Tim came over. He's sick. I nursed him. Now, my friend Carolyn had lent me Fight Club, which I had never seen, but which everyone I knew had seen, and I couldn't figure out why. Why would I want to watch a movie about a bunch of guys beating each other up?

Look out honey, 'cause i'm using technology
Ain't got time to make no apology

That is not what the film is about. But that is a brilliant piece of marketing. The ads, trailers, etc., promoted a fight film. Something along the lines of a Jean-Claude Van Damme film. Why would I want to sit through some piece of garbage like what they used to show in the Kmart employee lounge on Saturday afternoons? I can't imagine what people thought the first time they saw this film, this perfect postmodernist work. So Tim and I watched the movie.

Now, on Saturday, I had been in the anthropological museum at the University of Pennsylvania with my friend Kate, an art history major at Temple. So Kate and I both have an interest in religions; she's drawn to Buddhism (as am I), while I'm more of a druid-type. And so we debated the merits of both systems, and the possiblity of combining the two, the way the Japanese combine Buddhism with Shinto, also a nature religion like Druidism. Keep this in mind--combining a religion based on the negation of desire and self in order to obtain nirvana, with a nature religion based on the philosophy of becoming one with everything through the method of awen--divine inspiration and enlightenment.

Soul radiation in the dead of night
Love in the middle of a fire fight

So my mind has been running around with all these thoughts in my head. I hate my job, I hate my boss. I'm bored with life. I feel like a serf. I feel angry. I'm buying things because I want to subvert this anger, this alienation, this feeling of wasted potential, with an image I've been working on since I was ten years old. This image of a globe-trotting cultural archaeologist, this romantic drunk, this idea of being Patti Smith fronting the Replacements. Of collecting odd bits of existence, which only I have access to. And that is at odds with what I've been feeling is my real life--a college graduate who is doing a monkey's job, wasting her life and her money, alone and lonely.

Honey gotta strike me blind!
Somebody gotta save my soul!
Baby penetrate my mind!

That's all very fine and good. But a couple of things changed.

Like I said, I've been discussing things with friends, trying to keep my head together. And that's when Carolyn lent me Fight Club. At the same time, I met Tim, who is making me ridiculously happy. And so my life has been thrown for a very large loop. I began thinking. If I were to throw out everything I owned--even blow up my house, destroy it all in one fell swoop--who would I be? Would I be different? Would I be free from all restraints? I have a fear of my house burning down and losing everything I have, every sentimental scrap. But if I were to purposefully destroy everything, to take it upon myself to make everything new, would I be a different person?

Yes.

Would this be a bad thing?

No.

Because I'm starting to realize that every day you wake up, you are a new person. Every experience you have changes your life in some way. And every action has an equal and opposite reaction. At the same time, you are never severed from your past--I'm not five years old, but I can remember being five. And I need to stop wishing I was still five.

Now--those Blue Willow dishes are my ying-yang table. I want them, because they help define me. I bought them because they remind me of a teapot my mother has, and has had long since before I was born. It's sentimentalism, it's... But destroy that--and destroy all other things, destroy that which makes me feel like a serf, that which makes me angry--to move beyond the desire for material objects, or even just desire for things--destroy it all, and I will be a new person. It was worse when I worked at the mall--there I saw people who came every Saturday to buy more crap to fit into their houses, just so they had something to do with their money, do with their lives, give them status.

But is it enlightenment to destroy? Or just self destruction? Where do you draw the line? And do I even want to destroy certain things? Do I want to lose certain people? No. I'm not enlightened. But I want to be.

And if I was to die tomorrow, what do I wish I had always done? I don't know. I don't want to think about it, I guess. I don't know. But I know I don't want to die--because I know there are things out there I don't know yet. And I know I don't want to live for objects, but for people.

So Fight Club confirmed my nihilism, my desire to destroy what I have and break away from what is really a painful division of self--my good self, which I keep around the office, which pays the bills, which is a yes-man, and my bad self, which stays out, drinks, is promiscuous (don't worry, honey, you know my worst already). I see the Narrator and Tyler in me.

But in the end, it's a story of failure, isn't it?

You see, boys, this angst, this anger, this rage, this desire to destroy, isn't just in the hearts of thirty-year-old boys raised by mothers, abandoned by fathers. It's in the hearts of your girlfriends, wives, sisters, only you just don't see it. The boys don't realize that Marla Singer isn't the whole story. The boys are feeling castrated--they gotta strike out; the girls are feeling frustrated--they gotta shout out:

And I'm the world's forgotten boy
The one who's searchin', searchin' to destroy
And honey i'm the world's forgotten boy
The one who's searchin', only to destroy


The Pixies song was a great ending, but I'm just surprised that The Stooges "Search and Destroy" wasn't used.

I am the happiest woman on the face of the earth.

Before you start to think I'm one of those promotional video characters, you should get to know me. Rather, you should listen to the events of my life, because there's a big difference. I am not what has happened to me. But I digress...

I've never been able to do things the "normal" way. My parents divorced when I and my siblings were young, and we were raised by our Dad. For being a weirdo himself, he sure spent a lot of time trying to tell me how to be normal. "Go back upstairs and change, you're dressed like a bag lady." "That fantasy stuff's gonna rot your brain." "As long as you're under my roof, you'll eat meat like the rest of us." "Go put on a shorter skirt, we're not Pentecostal in this house." So, of course, being the obedient (ha!) daughter I was, I changed my clothes, ate meat, parted my hair in the middle, and counted the days until I was 18 and out on my own. And, once I turned 18... I became a teenager!

I took to wearing all black, I shaved my head, and became a vegetarian. Of course, my Dad's fear that I would become Pentecostal never came to fruition... I took up Wicca instead. I did everything except for drugs, even started dating girls. I finally started to learn about life.

When I met the man I would eventually marry, it was because my friend had told him I was a lesbian vampire (which I wasn't... a vampire, anyway, and as it would turn out, lesbian, either). We had an open relationship (he could sleep with whoever he wanted as long as I could join in or hold the camera). And slowly, eventually, I began to "normal" out, but this time not because I was told to, but because I began to learn what I liked. Turns out, I enjoy cooking, and sewing, and even though I'm still a weirdo and write fantasy and listen to ICP, I have hair and had a wonderful husband who I made feel like Emperor of the world every day.

I had tried the desk job thing, and learned that I hated it beyond all rational hatred, and missed the comeraderie and hard work I felt in a simple, minimum wage fast food job. You know, the kind of job everyone tells you you have to get out of, or it will suck your soul. Believe me... the desk job is worse. At least when you're sweating like a pig in the middle of a rush period with five other people who are also sweating like pigs, and your adrenaline is high and you're perfectly in sync with one another, and of course you aren't really accomplishing anything except for feeding greedy, lazy people who feel so guilty they're taking time out of their important lives to do something as unimportant as eat that they feel they have to take it out on you because they've waited a whole ten minutes for their order, but still, you're sweating together and working together, you're a team, and when it's all said and done, you may have been yelling at eachother for the last 8 hours, but those doors get locked and everyone cheers and sighs and takes a drink of soda, and the world stops spinning and you spend the next hour getting the grime off of everything... I'm sorry, look down on me if you must, but THAT is a job. Not sitting behind a desk for hours sorting papers that will never be looked at and listening to your coworker prattle on for hours about the new sweater she bought for her chihuahua or how she's going to get her stomach stapled.

I loved my husband more than my own life. I never let him forget it. I worshipped him. Every moment I was with him, he knew how much I loved him. My worst fear was being separated from him. This fear caused me to treat every day like it was our last together. Just in case.

My husband and I had compromised: we would have one child, as long as it was just one. I wanted children, he had three already (he wasn't raising them). So, one. And I stopped taking the birth control. And years went by. And still no child. I went to a circle, and we were supposed to put our worst fear into the cauldron to be burned. My little piece of paper with the word "infertility" written on it went up in smoke, curled up into lazy black ashes. And someone suggested a book, which suggested a tea, which I bought but never drank, and I made myself leave that fear behind. One month later, we had conceived my son.

I can never do anything normal. I had a home birth. Oh, I'm one of those know-it-all moms who has read all the books and researched all the websites and has do to everything all natural. Except for the cloth diapers. Try it for a day, and you'll agree. But where was I? Oh, yes, giving birth on my living room couch, with my midwife and her assistant holding my legs, and my husband pressing the small of my back with his hand, his deep blue eyes staring straight into mine as I did the one thing I had always wanted to do before I died. And one burning moment later, and there he was, on my chest, umbilical cord attached, blue fuzz (from the towels) and gunk all over him, feeling so strange to me at first, like a christmas present I had just opened. And then he was mine, all mine. And I was no longer afraid of my own death. But I became terrified of his.

One week later, my husband was taken from me. Someone had accused him of a crime he didn't commit... I don't care how hungry or pathetic children look, never allow them into your home. Yes, it has come to that. Three months later, he was found guilty and given five life sentences. Because children are easily frightened, and the state's got bills to pay. My worst fear. But... strangely, I'm not afraid.

It could be the little guy lying on my lap, suckling. I'm pretty sure he's a big part of it. It could also be all that time I spent letting my husband know he meant the world to me, all those wonderful years when I knew it would all end one day, and I'd better make the most of it. It could be that movie I used to watch, over and over, when I was a teenager, the one where those guys made soap out of lyposuction fat and that man blew up the apartment that contained all the stuff he had collected over the years.

The house in which we were going to be a family now lies vacant, looted, I'm sure, somewhere north of here. From that place I have only my beautiful son, his car seat, and as many of his clothes as I could fit into a diaper bag. I live in my Mom's spare room, suckling my child as I type this, waiting for those welfare people to call me back, so I can take him in to get the last of his booster shots, and so I can maybe get some help buying groceries. I make ten dollars a night babysitting another woman's kids, less than minimum wage. Am I poor? Am I alone? Have I hit the bottom?

HA!!! I've never been better! I'm safe, I have my son, I'm fed and clothed, and, best of all... I'm happy! Yes, yes, there are still worries in life, still stuff I have to deal with, still grime to clean up. But I feel free. I feel good, I feel closer to my husband (who I write daily) than I've ever been before, and I'm doing two of my favorite things in the whole world: suckling my son, and talking about him. As long as he sleeps in my lap, I'm the richest woman in the world. I can wear hand-me-down clothes and never really own a thing in my life until my funeral, for all I care.

If I died right now, what would I wish I had done? Exactly what I'm doing now.

I am the happiest woman on the face of the earth.

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