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Truth in Advertising

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     Slip into a world at the speed of light, a world where you move faster, stronger. Harder. Better. I don't even like fucking daft punk

     Nike: Impossible Is Writing This Copy

     Nike: A Shoe Won't Make You Luis Figo So Go Outside And Work On Your Fucking Ball Skills

     Nikdflaklsjkflafjkldfaskdlfd

Cris stares at the screen another second, then reaches out and depresses the backspace key, holding it down until his Word document is completely blank but for the accusatory cursor. Then he puts his head down next to the keyboard and slowly, gently, thuds it against the desk over and over.

When it starts to hurt, he figures that's enough and rests his forehead the edge of his keyboard. This is when he can hear all the voices he's so used to pushing down most of the time -- not the haters on the internet or the rival agencies who can't deal with their success, but the other ones. His boss, wanting to know why the copy wasn't ready last week. His not-quite-ex, because Cris had never had time for dating, wondering why Cris spent so much time at work because how hard could it be to come up with a couple catchphrases. His college professor, who'd never quite hidden his disappointment that Cris stuck with business, but he couldn't spend four years of college tuition on creative writing and he wasn't even that good anyway.

A voice overhead says, "Tough morning?"

Fuck off, Cris almost says, before the neurons in his tired, tired brain connect and tell him Ricky. It's a sign of how exhausted he is that it doesn't cause more than a minor blip in his heart rate. Instead he just says, muffled, "Yes."

Ricky rests a hand on the small of Cris' back. "What's wrong?"

"The copy sucks."

There's a pause -- just long enough, Cris imagines, for Ricky to peer at Cris' screen. Then Ricky says, gingerly, "I don't... see any copy...?"

"There is none. Because I deleted it. Because it's shit."

Ricky makes a sympathetic noise.

Cris says into his keyboard, "I'm a fucking hack."

"No, you're not," Ricky says. His voice is inhumanly patient. Cris can't decide if Ricky's humoring him or not. "You're just tired."

"You don't know," Cris says, perversely determined to push it until Ricky realizes just what kind of person Cris really is. "You know what everyone said last year? Wait until he's under pressure, wait until he lands a real account? Guess they were right, because this is the biggest account I'm ever going to get and I can't produce two fucking lines."

Ricky sighs. The exhale brushes the back of Cris' neck and raises goosebumps, and Cris kind of hates that Ricky has this effect on him even when he's in a miserable creative black hole.

"No," Ricky says, "they're wrong. You're wrong. You're tired because you've been pushing yourself on this project nonstop for the last two weeks. I don't know if you've actually left the office, because you're in here before everyone else gets here and after they leave, every day. The industry didn't hand every major award in a single year to a campaign designed by a hack. You're smart and creative and a brilliant writer." Ricky's voice gets kind of steely. "And if you keep running yourself down like this I'm going to sit you down with one of your own campaigns and walk you through every single point that makes it great if it takes all day. Clear?"

Fuck. He hates everything about his life, because when Ricky drops the nice facade and reminds people you don't fuck with him it's a such a goddamn turn-on, and at the same time Cris can't help feeling all stupid and warm inside, and all he wants to say is You mean it?

"Cris?" Ricky says, still pressing.

"Clear," Cris mutters.

"Good." He doesn't have to look up to know that Ricky's beaming at him with one of those fucking unbelievable smiles. "Come on," Ricky says, and pats him on the back encouragingly. "Staff meeting in five minutes."

* * *

Cris doesn't really mind staff meetings but today all he's thinking is time time I don't have time. It's some totally inane human resources thing, anyway; Mourinho's not even there. Despite the fact that they walk there together, somehow Ricky ends up sitting on the opposite of the room, something that shouldn't make Cris feel disappointed but does anyway, which then makes him feel about seven years old.

He tunes out, trying to concentrate on his campaign and maybe put the time to good use. Just thinking about it makes him feel tired. In the background, the low drone of the HR guy is surprisingly soothing. It almost makes him want to...

Cris doesn't realize he's drifting off until Arbeloa, on his left, gives him a discreet kick in the ankle and his eyes fly open. He's good enough at faking alertness not to do anything stupid like sit up extra straight and open his eyes extra wide, but when he casually glances around the room Ricky's looking back at him with a knowing expression. Cris can't even bring himself to make a face.

HR lets them go after a couple hours. Cris checks his watch and rubs his face. He sort of had breakfast, if you count one of those fruit shakes with, like, extra minerals or whatever. He can't go to lunch this early; he has to work.

You can't write on an empty stomach, a voice in the back of his head whispers. Cris doesn't really trust it not to be the voice of procrastination.

He compromises with himself. He'll take a detour by the snack bar, and then he will not leave his office until he has something to show for it.

The Atrium, capitalized, is supposed to be the sort of "unconventional" open architecture that gets the creative juices of Perez+Valdano flowing. Or maybe it's supposed to send a message to their clients about the sort of people who work there. Cris is always a little unsure of when Perez+Valdano is selling to outsiders and when they're selling to themselves.

"Hey! Hey, Cris!"

Cris is turning even before Marcelo collars him, already feeling his mood brighten a little bit. Marcelo's his art guy, and one of Cris' favorite people in the whole agency.

Marcelo's about one millimeter away from bouncing in place. His whole face is eager. "You got some text for me yet? I know it's early but I thought, like, I could start some storyboards or something, because I want to give them a lot of choices, you know? Dude, I'm so pumped, this is gonna be sick."

Cris' stomach sinks into his shoes.

"No," he has to say. "Not yet. Sorry." He swallows. "I'm. Kind of blocked."

Marcelo's face morphs from psyched to sympathetic like it's made of playdough. "Hey, no worries, bro, you'll get it. You're awesome." He wraps his arms around Cris, right in the middle of the atrium, squeezes hard, and lets go, all in the space of a second. "You know where to find me whenever. I gotta go pick up some proofs, I'll catch you later when your genius has done its thing, okay?"

"Got it," Cris says, and watches Marcelo bound away.

"Don't rush the magic!" Marcelo calls, from halfway across the Atrium

Cris gives him a wave. It's pretty weak.

Back at his desk, Cris eats half his salad and stares at the screen without typing another word. Instead he gets on Facebook and looks up his a bunch of old classmates from his college writing seminar.

One's working at a publishing house. One's writing for television. Two have been published. At least four have couple photos in their profile.

Cris closes the window.

Everyone's always told him this is backwards, that the copy shouldn't come before the ad but he can't help how he thinks; he's a words guy, he gets his best ideas playing around with a few lines and his keyboard. It's always worked for him before. That's where the campaign that landed him the Nike account came from, the tag line No One Wants It More.

He can't help remembering what Ricky said this morning. His can feel his cheeks heat up. Fuck.

Focus. He has to focus. This spot is going to be a big deal; they've got the whole Nike soccer roster at their disposal, which is why Marcelo's so hyped up. Cris would be lying if he said he wasn't pretty thrilled himself, which means mostly he tries not to think about it too much.

The big meeting with the Nike reps is in exactly one week. One week to finalize a whole campaign pitch, the entirety of which will be centered around this sixty second television spot that is, currently, a blank document.

Cris is so fucked.

No one in creative has real offices; that would impede the flow of collaborative energy or whatever. So since Cris isn't slumped over his keyboard this time, he sees Ricky approaching from the other side of the office. There's a kind of etiquette to these things; he could make a show of getting back to his computer and Ricky would get the message that he was working and leave him alone. But he knows himself better than to think he could ever do that.

Ricky comes up and taps his fist against Cris' desk. "Knock, knock," he says, half-smiling.

"Hi," Cris says. He tries not to sound too pathetic.

"Any luck?" Ricky asks.

Cris shakes his head.

"Then have you--" Ricky's eyes fall on the half-eaten salad. "Oh, you've eaten."

"Yeah. No. Kind of." He doesn't even care that he must sound totally stupid. "Why?

"Well," Ricky says. "I just thought if you hadn't had lunch, we could go somewhere? You should take a break."

Cris can't say yes. He really, really can't say yes.

"Yeah," he says, pushing back his chair. "Sure."

* * *

Ricky leads him to some kind of organic sandwich coop across the street that's Perez+Valdano probably keeps in business singlehanded, and then says, "Let's take it to the park." So they walk another couple blocks to the city park and ruthlessly steal a bench out from under the nose of a couple teenage girls. Probably cutting class anyway, Cris tells himself so he doesn't feel guilty.

They don't talk at first, just dig in. Cris is, as a matter of fact, starving. Finally Ricky leans back with a sigh. He closes his eyes and tips his head back, so that his face is catching the sun. "Isn't this nice?" he murmurs.

Cris' throat is too dry to answer. He makes some kind of affirmative noise. He can't deny it's nice; he's been in the office so much he barely remembers what fresh air feels like. But the last thing he needs right now is to start feeling like he's on some kind of - of date.

He concentrates on watching the afternoon joggers. At least half of them are wearing Nike.

"Stop that," Ricky says.

Cris blinks. Ricky gestures at a youngish type with an investment banker haircut, just passing them. Cris' eyes had been on his sneakers. "I know what you're doing. Stop thinking about work. This is your break."

"I always think about work," Cris says, too stupid to say anything but the truth.

Ricky's probably the only person who can make an eyeroll look so fond. "Of course you do," he says. "Well, I'm making a new rule. You're not allowed to think about work when you're with me."

The many, many things Cris wants to say, and not just about what they could do instead, fortunately all occur to him at once so they stay shoved safely down. But it's a struggle. It must show, because Ricky looks more closely at him and says hesitantly, "Cris?"

Cris can't look at him. He stares dumbly at a particular spot of grass, unable to raise his eyes. There's a group of kids playing baseball on the other side of the park. Cris can hear them calling to each other.

A hand rests on his arm.

"Cris," Ricky says. "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to say it's not hard for you right now. I really wasn't."

"I know," Cris gets out. "Yeah. I know. I just."

Ricky waits.

Cris lets out a shaky breath and says, very quietly, "I really think I'm going to fuck this up."

Ricky's hand tightens. He doesn't say anything at first. Cris' throat feels like it's closing up. He's never failed; he can't fail. He just can't. But he is.

"Cris," Ricky starts, then stops. Then starts again. "I don't know what you'll come up with, or what will happen to this campaign. I know you'll come up with something, because that's just you. Maybe, yes, maybe it won't be what you want, or what you thought you could do. But listen to me." He gives Cris' arm a little shake. "It's not going to be because you're not good enough. It's not. It's not--" He catches his breath and finishes, "It's not going to be who you are."

Cris can't keep himself from looking up.

Ricky's face is inches away. He's totally serious, intent on Cris, just on Cris. His eyes are so, so dark. Cris can't breathe.

A shout cuts between them, making them both look away for its source. One of the kids made a wild throw; the ball's landed next to the two teenage girls, who are sitting cross-legged on the grass. The kid nearest them is waving his glove in the air. One of the girls gets to her feet, ball in hand. She winds up.

Cris has just a split-second to notice her form looks pretty good, right before she whips the ball back across the park and it smacks into the kid's glove so hard he staggers backward.

Cris swears there's an audible sizzle.

The girl sits back down. She and her friend burst into giggles. The joggers barely notice.

"Wow," Ricky says faintly. "That's... very good, isn't it."

Cris doesn't say anything. He's still staring. The two girls are gossiping away, oblivious.

"Cris?" Ricky says, and then, waving a hand in front of Cris' face, "Cris?"

Cris says, "I have to get back to the office."

* * *

His fingers hit the keys before he's all the way in his desk chair and he doesn't stop typing for he doesn't even know how long, brain moving faster than his fingers can keep up with, scrambling to get everything down as it comes to him. He deletes and rewrites and rearranges and he doesn't even mind because this is going to be fucking amazing.

He doesn't know what time it is when he finally hits save for the last time and leans back in his chair, feeling satisfaction in every inch of his skin. He stretches his arms over his head, rolling his neck in a slow circle. The sun's set, he realizes with surpise, and the last traces of red-orange are fading from the sky. He looks around the office. All the other desks are empty.

Behind him, Ricky says, "Done?"

Cris nearly jumps out of his chair. He spins it around and sees Ricky cracking up, laughing much harder than the situation calls for. Cris tries to glare at him, but it's halfhearted at best, and eventually he gives up and smiles back like an idiot, because he doesn't even care.

"How long have you been there?" he asks.

"A few minutes," Ricky says, managing to get himself under control. "You had that look you get when you've just done something big, so I thought you were probably finished."

"Yeah. Well." He can't keep the damn smile off his face. "I think I've got it." He pushes his monitor around and says, "Here."

Ricky leans over. He's wearing his glasses, Cris notices. His brow's furrowed just a little bit. Cris can't stop watching his face.

The smile starts early, and widens and widens, until Ricky's beaming at the screen, and then at Cris, so close Cris might incinerate.

"This is going to be a winner," Ricky says.

Cris should deny it, but he knows what success feels like; he knows this one is good. He can't tell if he's so warm from success or Ricky's smile or the heat radiating from Ricky himself.

Ricky pulls back and surveys him. "You know it," he says. "Good. So don't let me ever hear you talking like you were this morning. Okay?"

There's that hint of steel again. Cris almost fucking shivers. "Okay," he manages.

"Now," Ricky says. Suddenly it seems like he's not quite looking at Cris. "You should celebrate, or. I thought. Maybe. We could go to dinner?"

It's so out of left field that Cris' mouth, moving without his brain, says, "But we just got lunch."

Ricky's smile kind of falters. "Right," he says. "Yes. We did. Sorry, yes."

Something's not right. Cris replays the conversation silently to himself. Then he has to grab the arm of his chair to keep from jumping like he's been electrocuted.

"No," he says, "fuck, wait--sorry, shi--sorry. I mean. Yes. I'd like to. I'd like that. Please."

Christ, he's a mess. It's going to be a fucking miracle if Ricky ever talks to him again. Cris can't take his eyes from Ricky's face. But--

Slowly, the smile creeps back, even wider, and oh god Cris is going to die because there's no doubt about why it's aimed at him. "Oh," Ricky says, sounding unmistakably relieved--relieved, like he had something to worry about. "Oh, good. I was hoping. That you would."

Cris can't stop staring at him. He's halfway convinced this is all some kind of unbelievable fever dream. "I wasn't hesitating," he blurts out. "I was just being stupid. Sorry. I just didn't think you'd ever. I mean. Shit. Please make me stop talking."

Ricky laughs, but he's--he's blushing, and Cris is going to die. "Well," Ricky says. "I thought I should take some advice. From your new client."

Cris has been working. Ricky's smile grows and Cris gets it just as Ricky begans to mouth, Just --

And then Cris has to put his head down because he's laughing so hard, and so is Ricky, and he's never felt so good in his life.

* * *

DRAFT SCRIPT

"ALTER EGO"

PEREZ+VALDANO FOR NIKE

[Cue music. Open on CESC FABREGAS dressed in street clothes, eating breakfast in a kitchen. CUT to FABREGAS at bus stop, holding a knapsack. CUT to DIDIER DROGBA among group of musicians, strumming a guitar. CUT to ROBIN VAN PERSIE in delivery uniform cycling through anonymous neighborhood. CUT to PATRICE EVRA in hard hat directing construction workers.]

VOICEOVER: You're in the crowd.

[CUT to shot of FABREGAS among a group of students. CUT to DROGBA high-fiving another musician.]

VOICEOVER: You're on your own.

[CUT to VAN PERSIE wheeling bicycle into a repair shop. CUT to EVRA resting on steel beam overlooking cityscape.]

VOICEOVER: You're one of many.

[CUT to FABREGAS filling out what looks like a university form.]

VOICEOVER: One of the few.

[CUT to interior shot of DROGBA, alone, polishing guitar.]

[SHOT MONTAGE in time to music of "alternate" FABREGAS, DROGBA, VAN PERSIE, EVRA intercut progressively faster with unknown individuals in ordinary settings: a woman catching a train, a cashier making change, a child raising his hand in class, a man cheering at a football match.]

VOICEOVER: You're on the pitch. In the gym. On the road. In the classroom. At the counter. In the stadium. In the wings.

[SMASH CUT to unknown schoolgirl beside street, watching boys' pick up soccer game.]

VOICEOVER: You don't need a uniform. You know who you are.

[Players yell offscreen as ball drops and rolls at her feet.]

VOICEOVER: And you're everywhere.

[CLOSE UP on her face, determined. SFX SLOW CRESCENDO. CUT to left foot, in kneesocks and Nike CR100 boot, swinging forward.]

[SMASH CUT to logo]

Nike

Just Do It