“Is everything all right?” Jerry bites his tongue after saying this, unsure if the question was appropriate considering the circumstances.
Jonathan has always disliked Jerry and so he does not offer any clarity or assurance. And so Jerry stumbles forward into the awkward moment like a stage actor caught on the wrong cue.
“I am sorry for what happened,” he says. He is unfamiliar with such emotions, but he feels that he ought to show compassion.
Jonathan does not respond, hoping that Jerry has said all that he feels is necessary. But Jerry needs further consolidation, and the silence does not sit well with him.
“I hope you’re alright,” he adds. But he fumbles this statement and scrambles to catch himself. “I mean, under the circumstances, you wouldn’t be alright. What I meant was—well–”
“You don’t need to say anything,” Jonathan whispers.
Jerry gives a nervous smile. “Sorry,” he blurts. “Maybe we could talk about the display board. Maybe help take your mind off the pain.”
Jonathan winces. “The pain is not something I can ignore. Cam’s Energy Shots are not going to help me.” He is at a loss to describe his feelings and Jerry is getting on his nerves like a careless finger in a wound.
“Sorry,” Jerry repeats. “Maybe you’d feel better if we got to work. Cause, you know, Cam’s Energy Shots sure are gonna help our careers, hey, biggest contract yet!” He shakes a fist like a soccer dad telling his son to ‘go get em’.
Jonathan ignores every word of this as he continues on a train of thought that is just leaving the station. “In fact,” he says, “Cam’s Energy Shots can’t help anyone. It just ruins their teeth, gives their bodies a shock so they don’t have to feel weak and pathetic anymore. Only till the adrenaline peaks and then they’re back to feeling naturally crappy cause they don’t eat real food and the only exercise they get is playing Wii, running on hamster wheel treadmills, and having sex like it’s a sport they’re losing at. I mean, fuck, have you ever tried drinking that stuff?”
Jerry, whose face is struck with horror, shuts his mouth like a mouse trap as Jonathan’s bitter rant gains a little anger. “Don’t,” Jonathan says, “It’s vile. It’ll give you a heart attack at the age thirteen. Which, as it turns out, is the demographic we’re aiming for! Yes! Let’s target small children, get ‘em hooked while they’re young, they can be a new breed!”
“Jonathan,” Jerry interrupts, his sensitivity thrown aside out of indignation. “I’ve never seen you so negative and…and senseless! The energy drinks are no more harmless than soda pop and candy. Get your priorities straight!” He nudges Jonathan and says in a low voice, “Look at what they’re paying us for this. Eh?”
But these words only infuriate Jonathan. “Money? Is that the priority?”
Jerry looks sly. “Oh don’t get all righteous,” he says. “Money is what drives this industry. We wouldn’t be supporting an energy drinks company if the consumer wasn’t demanding it. That’s how money works. It tells us what the consumer wants, and the industry delivers!”
Jonathan stares outright. “Jerry,” he says. “You work for an advertising agency. You do realize what that means, don’t you?” He approaches Jerry like a scientist approaching a strange phenomenon. “The consumer doesn’t have a fucking clue what they want. They spend all day being told what to want. You tell them what to want! Do you really think the consumer sits down and ponders deeply to themselves, gosh, what do I really want in life to make myself a happier, healthier person? Come on Jerry!”
Jerry just shakes his head. Then he says something that hits Jonathan like a cold slap. “I know what this is. You’re taking all your pain into your work with you. You need to go back to the councilor and deal with your personal issues before you come to work.” He leaves Jonathan choking on words of outrage and exits the room.