The tears were really coming now, and one fat stripe rolled along the barrel of the gun and down the loop around the trigger to burst flat against my index finger. Raymond Hessel closed both eyes so I pressed the gun hard against his temple so he would always feel it pressing right there and I was beside him and this was his life and he could be dead at any moment.
This wasn’t a cheap gun, I wondered if salt might fuck it up.
Everything had gone so easy, I wondered. I’d done everything the mechanic said to do. This was why we needed to buy a gun. This was doing my homework.
We each had to bring Tyler twelve driver’s licenses. This would prove we each made twelve human sacrifices.
I parked tonight, and waited around the block for Raymond Hessel to finish his shift at the all-night Korner Mart, and around midnight he was waiting for a night owl bus when I finally walked up and said, hello.
Raymond Hessel, Raymond didn’t say anything. Probably he figured I was after his money, his minimum wage, the fourteen dollars in his wallet, Oh Raymond Hessel, all twenty-three years of you, when you started crying, tears rolling down the barrel of my gun pressed to your temple, no, this wasn’t about money. Not everything is about money.
You didn’t even say, hello.
You’re not your sad little wallet.
I said, nice night, cold but clear.
You didn’t even say, hello.
I said, don’t run, or I’ll have to shoot you in the back. I had the gun out, and I was wearing a latex glove so if the gun ever became a people’s exhibit A, there’d be nothing on it except the dried tears of Raymond Hessel, Caucasian, aged twenty-three with no distinguishing marks.
Then I had your attention. Your eyes were big enough that even in the streetlight I could see they were antifreeze green.
You were jerking backward and backward a little more every time the gun touched your face, as if the barrel was too hot or too cold. Until I said, don’t step back, and then you let the gun touch you, but even then you rolled your head up and away from the barrel.
You gave me your wallet like I asked.
Your name was Raymond K. Hessel on your driver’s license. You live at 1320 SE Benning, apartment A. That had to be a basement apartment. They usually give basement apartments letters instead of numbers.
Raymond K. K. K. K. K. K. Hessel, I was talking to you.
Your head rolled up and away from the gun, and you said, yeah. You said, yes, you lived in a basement.
You had some pictures in the wallet, too. There was your mother.
This was a tough one for you, you’d have to open your eyes and see the picture of Mom and Dad smiling and see the gun at the same time, but you did, and then your eyes closed and you stated to cry.
You were going to cool, the amazing miracle of death. One minute, you’re a person, the next minute, you’re an object, and Mom and Dad would have to call old doctor whoever and get your dental records because there wouldn’t be much left of your face, and Mom and Dad, they’d always expected so much more from you and, no, life wasn’t fair, and now it was come to this.
This, I said, is this your mom?
Yeah. You were crying, sniffing, crying. You swallowed. Yeah.
You had a library card. You had a video rental card. A social security card. Fourteen dollars cash. I wanted to take the bus pass, but the mechanic said to only take the driver’s license. An expired community college student card.
You used to study something.
You’d worked up a pretty intense cry at this point so I pressed the gun a little harder against your cheek, and you started to step back until I said, don’t move or you’re dead right here. Now, what did you study?
In college, I said. You have a student card.
Oh, you didn’t know, sob, swallow, sniff, stuff, biology.
Listen, now, you’re going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing off the top of your head. Make something up. I don’t give a shit. I have the gun.
Finally, you were listening and coming out of the little tragedy in your head.
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up?
Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please.
No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could do anything in the world.
Make something up.
You didn’t know.
Then you’re dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.
Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight.
A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a veterinarian.
That means animals. You have to go to school for that.
It means too much school, you said.
You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your wallet into the back pocket of your jeans. So you really wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against the other. Is that what you’ve always wanted to be, Dr. Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian?
No. No, you meant, yeah, no shit. Yeah.
Okay, I said, and I pressed the wet end of the muzzle to the tip of your chin, and then the tip of your nose, and everywhere I pressed the muzzle, it left a shining wet ring of your tears.
So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school.
I pressed the wet end of the gun on each cheek, and then on your chin, and then against your forehead and left the muzzle pressed there. You might as well be dead right now, I said.
I have your license.
I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then in six months, and then in a year, and if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.
You didn’t say anything.
Get out of here, and do your little life, but remember I’m watching you, Raymond Hessel, and I’d rather kill you than see you working a shit job for just enough money to buy cheese and watch television.
Now, I’m going to walk away so don’t turn around.
This is what Tyler wants me to do.
These are Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth.
I am Tyler’s mouth.
I am Tyler’s hands.
Everyone in Project Mayhem is part of Tyler Durden, and vice versa.
Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you’ve ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.