“Everything hurts, but pain doesn’t last forever. It becomes strength.”
– Nike ad
The ad copy refers to physical pain in the context of playing sports–it was a basketball clothes & shoes promotion newsletter–but I imagined that the copywriter was a depressed, single 20-something who listens to Annie Lennox on Friday nights in her apartment whilst swiping through a photo gallery of her one-eyed parakeet, occasionally checking the Twitter feed of an Edgar Allan Poe parody account.
She was assigned with writing that newsletter. She doesn’t even wear Nike. She’s a die-hard Knicks fan, but she doesn’t play sports–never had–unless that brief unicycle racing phase she got into a few years back counts.
The marketing director told her, “Amanda, I want you to convey the positive perspectives of pain. I want this done before 4 PM or you’re fired.”
But Amanda could only think of the kind of pain you feel underneath the ribs as she looked at pictures of the models wincing, acting exhausted, lying defeated on the floor of a high school basketball court the photographer rented for the photo shoot.
She used to think it would last forever. She played the voicemail he left on her phone in 2006 for two years. It became a habit. The pain she felt every time she played it became the most consistent thing in her life when jobs led to nowhere and friendships faded. It became a safety blanket. The pain became home.
“Hey, Amanda. Can we talk? Call me.”
It was the voicemail that haunted her the most, not the actual conversation, not the actual breakup. The voicemail is the 21st century dirty bomb. It’s wrapped up in pretty colors and patterns, with a red bow on top. You glance at it throughout the day, but wait to open until you get off work, and then when you finally unwrap it–kaboom.
Pain. 2008 became 2012, when Amanda sat on her balcony waiting for the world to end like the Mayans had predicted. The world didn’t end; it continued to spin just as it did the day before.
She woke up on the first day of the year and felt something strange in her chest. She ran to the bathroom and felt around her breasts, nervously feeling for lumps. She noticed that the strange feeling became lightness. It wasn’t a tumor that she felt, it was the absence of pain.