Just Do It
When she laughed her sunglasses shook so hard they practically tore themselves from her face momentarily revealing stark blue eyes that danced with laughter. He grabs the sunglasses in mid-air eliciting a gasp from her, a hand to the mouth. He feels like a hero and it shows. The joke that caused her to explode had been about her shoes. Their little oasis of fun breaks out of it’s confines infecting a lone coffee-swilling, suit-clad, frowning man on the table behind them. The tight line on his face elongated till the laughter reached his eyes and then he giggles like a little girl.
He continues to giggle as he collects his suit case, and puts on his jacket, and walks out the door. He passes by the barrista, who gazes out the window at the beautiful day, envious of something. The man in the suit turns to the barrista and grins. The barrista can’t help but answer with an inexplicably genuine smile. The man in the suit indulges a sudden urge, and shoots the barrista two corny thumbs ups then transforms them into little zero’s, little A-ok’s. The barrista barks out a laugh, grabs his mouth, too late to conceal what he perceives to be a crime.
Then it’s night, and the barrista is heading home. On the train he remembers the man in the suit, which causes a smile to suffuse his face, which he beams in all directions. An old lady clutching faded flowers spots the smile and can’t help but return it. Now it’s later on and the old lady is making dinner, the faded flowers in a bin. She mouths the tale soundlessly to her daughter. Cut to her beautiful, nubile daughter, who looks up from her textbook and laughs. Later the stunning girl steps out to grab some groceries, list in hand. She walks past the barrista from earlier on, who is now dressed for a night out, sitting on his own at a roadside table. He looks at her shoes, and it’s the same shoes the woman at the beginning of it all was wearing, and he decides to rise, emboldened by the random banker from earlier in the day, and boldly, awkwardly, charmingly, he tells a joke to the stunning girl. She stops, and laughs, and then she sits down with him, groceries forgotten.
The last shot is of her shoes, and the words:
“Just do it.”
My boss loved the fucking idea. That sounds a bit arrogant i guess, but those were his words, not mine. Maybe i should have used quotation marks, i don’t know. The other copywriters sat and smiled, simultaneously proud and jealous. Ok, i’m just editorializing now, but that’s how it felt. Maybe that implies i felt a tingle of guilt, standing out the way i did. I didn’t.
I got a bonus.
The campaign was centered around the classic slogan, rejuvenated, made relevant for the age demographic the shoe was marketed towards. “Redefining the traditional”, that’s what the official press release called it. I didn’t write that. Maybe it was Nick. It sounds like Nick. He loves to use words like “redefine”. And “propagate”.
The best part of the day was when news propagated around the office about how successful my presentation went. Charlene even said “But didn’t you say you had nothing prepared?” Not till this morning sure. I told her a short tale, something that made me look like some kind of casual genius. Effortlessly creative. I didn’t tell her the truth. I just thought she’d find it boring. I almost asked her out this time, but i decided not to do it. I thought about it, and that harsh chemical, that fear came flooding up to my brain. I went from eloquent to socially crippled and left it there.
But that’s ok. I went home, called a friend on some pretext of borrowing some movie he wants me to see. He asked me about my day and i told him about the bonus. It was an endorphin high. I’m a praise addict. It’s in my nature. One day a study will come out absolving me of any personal responsibility for my need for praise and the contrived ways i seeks to elicit it, like i’m just part of a group of people who have some sort of condition, or predisposition, hell, maybe they’ll find out it’s my parents fault. Anyway i feel optimistic.
After the phone call i felt like doing anything. It didn’t matter what, all choices were equally pleasureable. I watched a show, went online. I closed that drawer, the one with my manuscript in it, usually taunting me. I felt nothing today, looking at that. Fuck my novel. I just made more money in a day than most people my age make in a month. I’m getting older, and that novel isn’t getting any more written. Maybe over the weekend i’ll set some time aside.
The weekend came, and went, without Charlene, or any words that i actually felt something about. The next week they put me on a different account, a global account. Coming up with TV ads for a global release. I don’t have to worry about localization, they have a team for that. I felt like Santa Claus, a whole cadre of elves helping me deliver my presents. Team leader, they called me. It felt good. My voice got deeper, i wore a tie. It was after the first meeting with my team that i got the email, from an old friend. She asked me how my writing was going. I wrote back, didn’t talk about the writing, instead i told her about my ideas for the new campaign, how i’m going to make this new high tech shoe lace stuff about “binding people” together. Apparently it’s waterproof, and self cleaning. One pair of laces for your whole life. I mean, i know nobody buys new laces, i mean we just buy new shoes, which is why i’m going for the whole “binding” angle instead of the practicalities.
I shot off the email, giddy with anticipation for her response, probably telling me how awesome I am. The feeling faded quickly. In the past i would wait, refreshing my email every half an hour, hoping she’d read my latest ramble, my latest chapter in a stunted, abortive attempt at fiction. The only thing i refreshed this time was my bank account online, and I almost immediately forgot about her, and a week later after I’d moved into my new office when she wrote her email i barely scanned it. It was a polite thing, and she called my idea “nice”. Nice? One of the partners thought it was inspired, and that guy’s a baller.
A couple of years later i found the manuscript. It was just as i remembered, untouched, not at all showing it’s age. I needed a new desk to match the color of my advertising award, and when the movers came to take the old wooden desk it shook inside. So i pulled open the drawer and found the old thing. Mary asked “What is it?” And i laughed and told her something about the delusions of the young. She rolled her eyes, and went to get the car. When she had left I could’t really bring myself to throw it away, and in a fit of weirdness i sat down and read the thing.
I’d almost forgotten what it was about.
A boy, who had a rare eye condition. He saw the world in a strange negative way, literally as in a photographic negative. The spaces where people were, were empty. But the spaces in between them were filled with light. He’d learnt to live fine enough with his condition, but he wished he could show others what he saw. He lived in a city, and wondered at how all the people stayed in their tiny black spaces, ignorant of one another. He watched how the gazes of beautiful people skittered to one another, before sliding off, embarrassed, shocked by the momentary connection. The boy became a comedian, who did impromptu acts in coffee shops.
It was a weird thing, the first few chapters of what i used to earnestly call a novel.
I felt old. I couldn’t go back to being the boy who wished he would be a writer. Mary was waiting in the car, but i didn’t want to move from the old chair that i used to sit at and write. I felt that odd tingling in my fingers, that buzzing in my head, words forming, demanding that i expunge them, like a good piss. I tried to suppress the feeling, like i had before, usually by remembering whatever current assignment i was on, by focusing on an account. This time, i couldn’t do it, i couldn’t dispel the need to spew some random rhyming, alliterative and spontaneous sentences onto a napkin, a scrap of paper, a screen. My hands became fists, and suddenly tears leaked from my eyes. I began to sob quietly, as movers in the next room took apart the museum of my dead dreams.
I cannot go back to being that boy. I understand what they want now. I know how to succeed.
I’ve learnt how to lie too well. Comfortable in my simple constructions that blare from so many screens all over the world.
And i cannot go back to searching for truth.
One of the movers asks “What about this?”
He’s got the type writer, the one the girl who no longer writes me emails bought me, for my 18th birthday.
I get up, and wash my face. These kinds of thoughts are useless.
You can’t sell pain.