فصل 04

کتاب: باشگاه مشت زنی / فصل 4

فصل 04

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  • زمان مطالعه 9 دقیقه
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Chapter 4

And this is how we met.

All the usual brain parasites are here, tonight. Above and Beyond always gets a big turnout. This is Peter. This is Aldo. This is Marcy.

Hi.

The introductions, everybody, this is Marla Singer, and this is her first time with us.

Hi, Marla.

At Above and Beyond, we start with the Catch-Up Rap. The group isn’t called Parasitic Brain Parasites. You’ll never hear anyone say “parasite.” Everybody is always getting better. Oh, this new medication. Everyone’s always just turned the corner. Still, everywhere, there’s the squint of a five-day headache. A woman wipes at involuntary tears. Everyone gets a name tag, and people you’ve met every Tuesday night for a year, they come at you, handshake hand ready and their eyes on your name tag.

I don’t believe we’ve met.

No one will ever say parasite. They’ll say, agent.

They don’t say cure. They’ll say, treatment.

In Catch-Up Rap, someone will say how the agent has spread into his spinal column and now all of a sudden he’ll have no control of his left hand. The agent, someone will say, has dried the lining of his brain so now the brain pulls away from the inside of his skull, causing seizures.

The last time I was here, the woman named Chloe announced the only good news she had. Chloe pushed herself to her feet against the wooden arms of her chair and said she no longer had any fear of death.

Tonight, after the introductions and Catch-Up Rap, a girl I don’t know, with a name tag that says Glenda, says she’s Chloe’s sister and that at two in the morning last Tuesday, Chloe finally died.

Oh, this should be so sweet. For two years, Chloe’s been crying in my arms during hug time, and now she’s dead, dead in the ground, dead in an urn, mausoleum, columbarium. Oh, the proof that one day you’re thinking and hauling yourself around, and the next, you’re cold fertilizer, worm buffet. This is the amazing miracle of death, and it should be so sweet if it weren’t for, oh, that one.

Marla.

Oh, and Marla’s looking at me again, singled out among all the brain parasites.

Liar.

Faker.

Marla’s the faker. You’re the faker. Everyone around when they wince or twitch and fall down barking and the crotch of their jeans turns dark blue, well, it’s all just a big act.

Guided meditation all of a sudden won’t take me anywhere, tonight. Behind each of the seven palace doors, the green door, the orange door, Marla. The blue door, Marla stands there. Liar. In the guided meditation through the cave of my power animal, my power animal is Marla. Smoking her cigarette, Marla, rolling her eyes. Liar. Black hair and pillowy French lips. Faker. Italian dark leather sofa lips. You can’t escape.

Chloe was the genuine article.

Chloe was the way Joni Mitchell’s skeleton would look if you made it smile and walk around a party being extra special nice to everyone. Picture Chloe’s popular skeleton the size of an insect, running through the vaults and galleries of her innards at two in the morning. Her pulse a siren overhead, announcing: Prepare for death in ten, in nine, in eight seconds. Death will commence in seven, six … At night, Chloe ran around the maze of her own collapsing veins and burst tubes spraying hot lymph. Nerves surface as trip wires in the tissue. Abscesses swell in the tissue around her as hot white pearls.

The overhead announcement, prepare to evacuate bowels in ten, in nine, eight, seven.

Prepare to evacuate soul in ten, in nine, eight.

Chloe’s splashing through the ankle-deep backup of renal fluid from her failed kidneys.

Death will commence in five.

Five, four.

Four.

Around her, parasitic life spray paints her heart.

Four, three.

Three, two.

Chloe climbs hand-over-hand up the curdled lining of her own throat.

Death to commence in three, in two.

Moonlight shines in through the open mouth.

Prepare for the last breath, now.

Evacuate.

Now.

Soul clear of body.

Now.

Death commences.

Now.

Oh, this should be so sweet, the remembered warm jumble of Chloe still in my arms and Chloe dead somewhere.

But no, I’m watched by Marla.

In guided meditation, I open my arms to receive my inner child, and the child is Marla smoking her cigarette. No white healing ball of light. Liar. No chakras. Picture your chakras opening as flowers and at the center of each is a slow motion explosion of sweet light.

Liar.

My chakras stay closed.

When meditation ends, everyone is stretching and twisting their heads and pulling each other to their feet in preparation. Therapeutic physical contact. For the hug, I cross in three steps to stand against Marla who looks up into my face as I watch everyone else for the cue.

Let’s all, the cue comes, embrace someone near us.

My arms clamp around Marla.

Pick someone special to you, tonight.

Marla’s cigarette hands are pinned to her waist.

Tell this someone how you feel.

Marla doesn’t have testicular cancer. Marla doesn’t have tuberculosis. She isn’t dying. Okay in that brainy brain-food philosophy way, we’re all dying, but Marla isn’t dying the way Chloe was dying.

The cue comes, share yourself.

So, Marla, how do you like them apples?

Share yourself completely.

So, Marla, get out. Get out. Get out.

Go ahead and cry if you have to.

Marla stares up at me. Her eyes are brown. Her earlobes pucker around earring holes, no earrings. Her chapped lips are frosted with dead skin.

Go ahead and cry.

“You’re not dying either,” Marla says.

Around us, couples stand sobbing, propped against each other.

“You tell on me,” Marla says, “and I’ll tell on you.”

Then we can split the week, I say. Marla can have bone disease, brain parasites, and tuberculosis. I’ll keep testicular cancer, blood parasites, and organic brain dementia.

Marla says, “What about ascending bowel cancers?”

The girl has done her homework.

We’ll split bowel cancer. She gets it the first and third Sunday of every month.

“No,” Marla says. No, she wants it all. The cancers, the parasites. Marla’s eyes narrow. She never dreamed she could feel so marvelous. She actually felt alive. Her skin was clearing up. All her life, she never saw a dead person. There was no real sense of life because she had nothing to contrast it with. Oh, but now there was dying and death and loss and grief. Weeping and shuddering, terror and remorse. Now that she knows where we’re all going, Marla feels every moment of her life.

No, she wasn’t leaving any group.

“Not and go back to the way life felt before,” Marla says. “I used to work in a funeral home to feel good about myself, just the fact I was breathing. So what if I couldn’t get a job in my field.” Then go back to your funeral home, I say.

“Funerals are nothing compared to this,” Marla says. “Funerals are all abstract ceremony. Here, you have a real experience of death.” Couples around the two of us are drying their tears, sniffing, patting each other on the back and letting go.

We can’t both come, I tell her.

“Then don’t come.” I need this.

“Then go to funerals.”

Everyone else has broken apart and they’re joining hands for the closing prayer. I let Marla go. “How long have you been coming here?” The closing prayer.

Two years.

A man in the prayer circle takes my hand. A man takes Marla’s hand. These prayers start and usually, my breathing is blown. Oh, bless us. Oh, bless us in our anger and our fear.

“Two years?” Marla tilts her head to whisper. Oh, bless us and hold us. Anyone who might’ve noticed me in two years has either died or recovered and never came back.

Help us and help us.

“Okay,” Marla says, “okay, okay, you can have testicular cancer.”

Big Bob the big cheesebread crying all over me. Thanks. Bring us to our destiny. Bring us peace.

“Don’t mention it.”

This is how I met Marla.

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