He wasn’t the guy we expected, that’s for sure. He looked like he’d never worked a day in his life.
“The idea is to make everyone fall in love with you, understood?”
“Easy enough,” he said. Cocky bastard.
They had clothes and stylists galore waiting for him. He ignored most of what they told him as if he knew better. Maybe he did. Charisma is a very indefinable quality.
The first time he walked out of the back and I got a good look at him, I was floored. He was drop-dead gorgeous. I nearly forgot what the hell we were there for.
“Listen up, chief,” I said, “here’s the score.”
I tried not to look directly at him to avoid distraction.
“We’re going to make a video, carefully designed and plotted. You, of course, are the star. We need you to emote a certain neediness, vulnerability, extreme sex appeal.”
“Right now?” he said.
“For the video,” I reiterated.
He was about the best-looking guy in the universe. I hadn’t seen them all, but I was willing to bet. They needed new words for what he was.
It made sense that he was a perfectionist. He practically directed the video himself. He knew all of the most flattering angles. He understood lighting. I started to wonder if there was anything he didn’t understand.
How could I have known, that the answer was his own heart?
“I’m going out for a while,” he said when we were done. No one argued with him. Probably everyone wished that they were going with him. I certainly did.
“Tigue,” I said, “wait. Do you want some company?”
He shrugged. He stared off. His mind seemed to be always on other things.
I went with him, invited or not. People made way for him on the street as if he were royalty they didn’t recognize. We would soon lift his status of obscurity.
“Why are you doing this?” I said.
“Eating lunch?” he said.
“Why did you show up for this job?” I said.
“Somebody had to.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t allow him such easy evasions.
“The Company needs a star,” he said. “They own the whole world. Why shouldn’t they own me?”
“You may feel differently,” I said, “farther on down the line.”
“So what?” he said. “I’m still getting what I want. And they are, too.”
At least he had his priorities straight. For now.
“You realize,” I said, “that you’ll be helping them take over everything: every mind, every heart. You’ll become every desire, represent every goal. You’ll be the ultimate male figure. What every woman wants. What every man wants to be.”
“Or the other way around,” he said. He seemed only half-joking. He lived so internally, it was hard to tell what he took seriously. He had so many layers covering him up.
“They want me to sell The Company. Be their icon,” he said. “Why not? Should I trust the job to someone else?”
That was the first hint he gave, that he had designs on something greater, ambitions beyond the moment. That this was a stepping stone to… what?
“They have lawyers,” I said. “Contracts. You won’t be able to get out. You’ve sold yourself to them. You have to realize that.”
He didn’t hear me — not really. If I were him, I wouldn’t have heard me either. The world was laid out before him. That’s a lot for a twenty-two-year-old kid to resist.
I guess I was hoping: so was I.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said.
I was there ahead of everyone else, that night obsessing over him. Soon they all would be. For now, he was just mine.
For some insane reason, I made an appointment to see The Company president the next morning. I hadn’t gotten much sleep.
“Tigue,” I said.
“What about him?” the president said.
“Good,” the president said.
“We shouldn’t use him,” I said.
“Not good,” the president said.
“If anything, he works too well,” I said. “He makes people lose their minds.”
“That’s exactly what we want,” the president said. “Blind obedience. Blind devotion. People are nervous about a single corporate entity running the world. But they won’t be nervous when they see him. They’ll be eager. They’ll want him to have all the power. They’ll give it to him. Along with anything else he wants. He’s our face. We’ll never find another one like him.”
It was only the last part I found myself in agreement with. He was one of a kind. Once in a lifetime.
I told the president I quit.
Good thing I said it only in my head.
Tigue needed me to care about him in case no one else did. No one who wasn’t looking beyond the surface, that is.
“Maggie,” the president said, “what are you asking me to do here?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Just… nothing. You’re right. He’s the best. We’ve got him. He’s eager as hell. He’s troubled. If he wrecks himself, it’ll only add to his sympathetic appeal. Everything works in our favour.”
Two months later, The Company took over the world. They had all the money. They owned all the products. Having successfully insinuated themselves into every aspect of our daily lives, The Company now controlled everything. They were more necessary than God.
And he, of course, was their star. The very definition of success, perfection. Did he even know that he was acting, putting on a show? How self-deluded was he? Whose job would it be to disillusion him? Could it even be done?
“Tigue, let’s talk,” I said.
He lived in a mansion where he should. He still did everything that was expected of him. Except he had lost all of his eagerness to please. Perhaps his ego, seeming at first bottomless, had at last been sated.
Or perhaps he had just been looking for love, in the only way he knew how: by making everyone fall in love with him.
“I’m quitting,” he said. “I’m getting out.”
“They won’t let you,” I said.
“They can’t stop me,” he said. “I’ve got to be myself. When The Company and I wanted the same things, that was fine. Now we don’t. I’ve moved beyond their image of me. They’ll have to accept that and let me go.”
“They won’t,” I said. “They’ll hold you to the deal. You’re the face of everything they are. They can’t exist at this point without you.”
“They’ll have to,” he said.
My warnings, I suppose, just weren’t strong enough. He tried to disappear from the public eye. The Company tried to force him to appear. They had the law on their side. He had only basic human rights on his.
He lost every battle. He started to age. He wore himself out.
I cried the last time I saw him.
There wasn’t any way to fix him now. Even The Company saw that. They had the world. So they let go of the man who had given it to them.
“I’m free,” he said. “Finally free.”
He passed away a month later, decades before his time. The whole world wept, but perhaps just for the image.
I wept for the man.
For the guy who showed up for the job.
And did it too damn well.
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