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Fun Fact: Halpert is a Jewish last name. This will come up.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Chapter Notes:
Part one of three.

She brings her suitcase and a small collection of necessities, limiting herself to what will fit in the back of Jim's car. As he drives, he looks in the rear view mirror at the copy paper boxes in his backseat and tells her that he'll be happy to bring anything she's forgotten, anything she decides that she needs. He did not offer to take her to Brooklyn and she did not ask. Pam sees their mutual assumption as yet another good sign. Her life has become an intricate collection of good signs.

When they arrive, he moves twice as fast as she does, barely letting her carry anything up to her apartment. He stays long enough to have dinner and watch her open a couple of boxes. She walks downstairs with him and they kiss on her front step for twenty minutes while the sun is going down. He tells her that he's proud of her, that he loves her, and that he'll come back as soon as he can. He says these things over and over. She thanks him without saying what for. She realizes that there's too much to list. He drives away and she does not cry. It doesn't occur to her that she should.

She is subletting from a young, married couple who have gone to Israel for the summer. Their pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and linens are gone; their closets are empty, but their wedding pictures are on the wall and their good china is in the cabinet in the hallway.

Quietly, Pam walks around the apartment, opening cabinets and peering in drawers, unable to shake the feeling that someone will walk through the door at any moment. She returns again and again to the wedding pictures, to their elaborate, handwritten marriage contract. They are about her and Jim's age, maybe younger. Pam unpacks her boxes, washes the newsprint off her dishes and pans and makes her bed. She takes a bath and then slips under the sheets. She hasn't slept alone in about three months, but it isn't that hard.

It takes Pam a week to realize that she is dressed all wrong. Her receptionist's clothes are too hot, uncomfortable, and fussy for her new, temporary life. Her nylons stick to her legs, allowing sweat and grime to accumulate around her ankles. She walks everywhere now and her shoes are uncomfortable. There's no room in her tiny apartment to lay things flat to dry. Her classmates dress in jeans, beat-up shoes, and ironic t-shirts. It makes her feel like their mother. It makes her remember that she's only 29 and she sees that she's been spending years trying to race toward being someone older, more put-together.

She goes to used clothing stores and hole-in-the-wall shops in Williamsburg and acquires a small collection of a-line skirts that fall freely to her knees. They're made of stiff cotton that she associates with kitchen curtains or soft jersey like old t-shirts. They have elastic waistbands and are dark colors with small, indistinct patterns, tiny lines or flowers the size of her pinky fingernail. She buys thin cotton t-shirts in solid colors, camisoles with bras built in, and, because she has never owned anything like them before, a couple of filmy t-shirts from the bin of a used shop, printed with the name of elementary school baseball teams from towns she has never heard of. She replaces her work shoes with soft-soled canvas flats and wears them with little white footie socks. Everything can go in the washing machine, the dryer. She feels cooler, more appropriate. Jim has given her one of his old canvas shoulderbags. Before the end of the first week in her new, old clothes, a couple of tourists stop her outside of her apartment and ask her for directions. She does a little dance by herself in the living room in celebration.

Her hair becomes a problem. It sticks to her neck and gets in her face so she goes to a salon down the street and has it cut, leaving only enough to make a small ponytail at the base of her neck. She sends Jim a text message from the salon chair - "Haircut. Consider yourself warned." She is too busy to think about her hair most of the time and stops wearing what little makeup she used to bother with. She feels clean, unencumbered, and in her proper place. She takes cool baths every night before she goes to bed. She reads a lot, listens to music all of the time. There's no television in the apartment.

She is at school 8, sometimes 10 hours a day. She works hard and is cordial with her classmates, but she doesn't really make friends with them. She feels too focused on the task at hand to bother figuring out how to negotiate the cliques springing up around her. It seems like they all come to know one another effortlessly. She feels a little too gawky, a little too loud in the classroom. She is ten years out of high school and is surprised at how much of that girl is still in her, intact and unchanged.

At the end of the first week, the day before she goes shopping for new clothes, a square, flat package addressed in Jim's neat handwriting arrives in her mailbox. There's a CD inside, labeled "Because You're in New York and Are Cooler Than Me." It's Spoon and Lou Reed and The Hold Steady and Elvis Costello and Patti Smith and Pavement and The Ronettes and The New Pornographers and Arcade Fire and he's definitely cooler than her. It's all she listens to for the next week.

Her introduction to her neighbors is a knock on her door the first Friday night she's there. When she answers, the old woman standing before her informs her that it's the Sabbath and that she should come to dinner. She finds herself sitting at Mrs. Chapsky's table, drinking iced tea, and eating bread baked in her tiny, overheated kitchen before the sun went down. She finishes two bowls of ice-cold, electric pink borscht with sour cream and thinks of Dwight. She emails him the following Monday morning to tell him that she does, in fact, like beets. She might even love them. She sends him Mrs. Chapsky's borscht recipe. He responds with a terse thank you and a p.s. thanking her for leaving for the summer. "Her boyfriend," he writes, is much more productive in her absence. Pam is fairly certain that Dwight misses her.

Because of Mrs. Chapsky, she meets Mrs. Rabinovich and Mrs. Farber. She is clearly their little diversion for the summer and she is glad. They fuss over her, feed her, and call her by her full first name. They coo over her sketches. She listens to their stories and, because they always look so deliciously cool, starts occasionally tying her hair back with a scarf like they do.

When they first meet her, the widows want to know what she's doing in the city alone. They want to know who her man is, the tall one she was kissing on the front step last week, where he is, and what he does with himself. She tells them his name. His surname earns an "oh" of approval from Mrs. Rabinovich. When she says that he's in Scranton, working, they approve, but he still shouldn't leave such a beautiful girl alone in the city. She tells them that he's a salesman and the solidness, the intelligence of his career choice is praised. But she shouldn't be alone.

He hasn't left her alone. He calls her every other day. He mails her Greetings from Scranton! postcards with notes like "Aren't you glad you aren't here?" scribbled on the back. He sends her poems and passages from books he is reading, copied down on Dunder-Mifflin stationery. They spend an afternoon IM'ing one another, trying to figure out how to use her absence from the office to Dwight's disadvantage.

She hasn't left him alone. She emails him multiple times a day, usually just weird single sentences, little sonar pings that all loosely translate as "I'm here. Are you there?" He always writes back within the hour. She sends him sketches and cellphone camera pictures of the things and people she has seen and the tackiest, most touristy postcards she can find. She tells him long stories on the phone about school and her collection of widows, how popular he is among them.

Because he has been given the job of fixing the things that Ryan has broken, it is three weeks before he finally makes it to the city to see her. He has been working weekends and decides that he has earned the right to leave work early one Thursday afternoon. He arrives just before sundown. She is sitting on the front step with Mrs. Chapsky, who is entirely unsubtle about her reasons for being there.

When Pam sees Jim coming down the street, recognizing his long gait before she can make out his face, she stands up, smooths her skirt, and takes off walking to meet him halfway down the block. He is beaming when his face comes into focus, laughing when he hugs her, lifts her up off the ground, and kisses her. He pulls gently on the shorn ends of her hair sticking out of her scarf, as if he could make unspool from her scalp. "Look at you," he says in a tone that makes her feel like a gift, "You look amazing."

She leans toward him in a confidential manner, "It's my New York City disguise. I seem to be fooling everyone. Shhh."

He kisses her again. "I love you, I love you, I love you."

After Jim has been thoroughly pinched and kissed by Mrs. Chapsky, they go up to Pam's apartment. He pulls her sweaty clothes off and doesn't stop saying that he loves her.

They go out that night, for Middle Eastern food, and to a stifling-hot club where Pam's clothes make sense and Jim looks like her frat-boy boyfriend. They see three bands and walk home hand in hand at 3 a.m., soaked with sweat, and shouting over the ringing in their ears. Pam is a little drunk, Jim a little moreso. On the spot, she decides to cut class the next morning and leads Jim to the bathtub. They barely fit, but they manage. Pam is between Jim's legs, resting against his chest. His hand is between her legs, his fingers making the water ripple against her thighs. She can hear his small smile when he murmurs "Comfortable?" near her ear. She is too distracted to do anything but nod.

The widows manage a group-effort Sabbath dinner the following night, where they all coo over Jim, refilling his plate twice. They're in Mrs. Farber's incredibly clean apartment. She asks Jim to say the blessing over the wine and Pam looks at him, alarmed. She only has a split-second to regret not better explaining things to her widows before he picks up the kiddush cup, holding it in his right hand, and says something quickly and clearly in Hebrew, stumbling a little over the last part. Pam hides her surprise behind her wineglass. Mrs. Rabinovich pats his knee.

Later that night, when they're lying naked on their stomachs across her borrowed bed, the radio quietly playing in the background, she finally asks, "How on earth...?"

He picks up his head a little. "It's just a formula. Always starts the same way," again, he says something in Hebrew. Pam can't make out the individual words. "It's pretty easy to remember. I heard it a lot when I was a kid."

"You are just full of surprises."

"Don't underestimate me, Pam," he tries to deadpan, but his mouth is turning up at the corners.


Sometime near the end of the first month, Ben, her hipster-cute, geeky classmate asks her out for dinner. "I'd love to, but I really can't. My fiance is coming into the city tonight." She doesn't know why she says it, but she doesn't regret it and it doesn't feel like a lie. She thinks that she could have called Jim her fiance, her husband, her best friend, or her brother and she still would have been telling the truth in a more socially appropriate manner than simply saying to Ben that she belonged to Jim, that he made everyone else seem far away and faded. When she talks to Jim on the phone that night, she tells him about Ben, but changes the story slightly, calls him her boyfriend. She doesn't regret it.

Chapter End Notes:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

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