"So, got any plans for tonight, Big Tuna?" Jim looked up as his co-worker, Andy, turned around to face him. Andy was probably in his early thirties, Jim guessed, kind of preppy, and just a little bit nuts.
Jim had no idea what his last name was, and Jim was pretty sure Andy still didn't know Jim's first name after having worked there for four months. Andy started calling Jim "Big Tuna" after he brought a tuna sandwich for lunch the first day of work. Jim started bringing ham and cheese sandwiches after he used up all the tuna he'd bought that week.
He was semi-grateful that Andy didn't start calling him "Ham-n-Cheese" after that.
"Nope," Jim said. He glanced over at the cameraman, who was watching them. It was odd. Jim had been working at Stamford for over four months. He talked to Andy several times a day, and had several meetings with Josh Porter, his boss at Stamford, but other than that, could not say that he really knew anyone that worked at that branch.
There was a girl that sat behind him: Karen Filippelli. Jim knew nothing about her other than the fact that she always wore button-down shirts with a suit jacket everyday, and gave him dirty looks whenever he glanced in her direction. He didn't know what her problem was.
"Well," Andy said, "Hula Hanks has beer pong tonight. And ... five dollar fishbowls."
Jim squinted at him. "Beer pong?" He hadn't played beer pong since college. That was at least seven years ago.
"You know, that game where you try to get ping-pong balls into beer cups, and then your opponents have to drink the beer..."
Jim tried not to make a face. "I know what it is," he said. "I just ... probably haven't done that since college."
"Exactly! That's the genius of it. It's Stupid College Tuesdays. It'll be just like the old days, you know -- drinking tons of beer, meetin' chicks..."
Jim suddenly had a picture of Michael in his mind. He imagined Michael saying this just as easily as Andy was. "Yeah," Jim said.
"So... you down, Big Tuna? Up for an 'ol night out on the town?"
"Well, it is only Tuesday..."
"What - you gettin' too old for some fun? Can't hang with the party-boys?"
"Um," Jim said. He looked up at the camera again. It had become an all-too-familiar habit for him, especially after coming over to Stamford. It was something strangely comfortable among all the uptight people he worked around. He never thought he'd say that he missed Michael, or missed Dwight, but he did. Looking at the camera reminded him of being back in Scranton again.
"C'mon, you know you want to hang out with the Andy-meister."
Against his better judgment, Jim felt himself nodding. "Okay," he said.
Andy insisted on picking Jim up at his apartment after work that night. ("I'll grab you at 7:30. It'll give us just enough time to get some of those two-for-one appetizers!") Jim paced around his empty apartment as he waited for Andy. He wondered why he had agreed to do this. It was either going to be kind of fun, and he'd figure out that Andy wasn't as weird as he seemed at work, or, like Jim suspected, he'd find out that Andy was even more of a nutcase outside of work.
Jim switched on the television. Anything to distract himself while he was waiting. Not more than a minute later (7:29 PM), the buzzer went off. Jim pressed the intercom button. "Yeah?" he said.
"Bigggggg Tuna!" a voice came over the speaker. Jim nodded to himself. Yup. Nutcase.
"I'll be right down," he said, grabbing his jacket.
Jim had to stop himself from laughing as he stepped into Andy's beige Volkswagen Jetta. Andy was dressed exactly the same way he'd come into the office, sans tie. He had a tassel hanging from his rearview mirror. Joan Jett was playing on his radio.
"What's goin' on, buddy?" Andy asked as he sat down.
"Not too much," Jim said.
"I Love Rock-n-Roll."
"Uh ... yeah. This is a good song."
"Really gets your night goin', you know what I mean?" Andy turned it up to the point where it was uncomfortably loud, and started singing along. "I love rock-n-roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby! I love rock-n-roll, so won't you take your time and dance with MEH!"
Jim looked out the window, his eyes wide. He couldn't decide if it was akin to getting into a car with Michael, or a completely different animal altogether. Either way, it was ... weird. He almost wished he could call Pam and tell her about it.
Pam... Yeah, they weren't really talking all that much. Not that they weren't talking ... he just made a decision not to go out of his way to talk to her. She had made the decision not to tell him when she had called off the wedding (he'd heard about it from Michael, of all people), so he decided that if she wanted to talk to him, she could call him, not the other way around. And they did talk, sometimes. Sometimes she sent him little funny e-mails about what was going on in Scranton. Sometimes she text-messaged him. They never talked about anything other than work, usually.
Jim had heard that Pam was taking art classes, and that she'd gotten her own apartment. She hadn't told him that, and he hadn't asked her about it. That type of conversation was in an unspoken "off-limits" category. It hurt not to be able to talk to her about everything. They hadn't really talked that much about their personal lives before, either, but now, she seemed even more distant. He didn't understand why she didn't at least tell him about her and Roy breaking up. Maybe she was afraid he'd try to go after her again? He sighed. No chance of that. He wasn't going to waste his time anymore. If she really were interested in him, she would have called him after she broke off the wedding. She would have come to see him. She would have told him that he was the reason she didn't marry Roy.
But Pam didn't do that. She hadn't say anything. Obviously, he'd been wrong about her. Maybe she'd never had feelings for him all along. Maybe he was a bad kisser. Maybe she just didn't care. Jim didn't know.
It had taken him a long time to get over that. Months. Hell, he still wasn't over it. He didn't know if he'd ever be over it.
But that's why he was here in Stamford. To start over. To meet people.
To play ... beer pong.
"So," Jim said. "Do you do this often?"
"Do what?" Andy asked. He drove very fast, and Jim winced a couple times as Andy took a turn a little sharply, or followed someone too closely before he got around them.
"Uh... play beer pong, do this, uh, Tuesday college night thing?"
"Oh yeah," Andy said. "I usually go at least a couple times a month. My buddy Andrew comes out with me a lot, but he's busy tonight, so that's why I asked you, Big Tuna."
"It's ... uh, Jim."
"It's Jim ... my name is Jim."
Andy looked at him oddly, before veering around a huge SUV. "Whatever you say, Big Tuna."
They arrived at the bar just before 8 PM. The place wasn't that busy yet. It was a fairly large bar, with a main "bar" area, some tables off to the side, and an upstairs bar area. "They do the beer pong upstairs," Andy explained as they headed up to the second floor. There was a girl in a tiny white tank top that said "Hula Hanks" on it. Her breasts were practically hanging out of her shirt. Jim couldn't help but stare.
"Andy!" she said as he came towards her. Andy gave her a hug.
"What's hangin', Jessica?"
She eyed Jim up and down. "Who's your cute friend?" she asked, leaning forward. Jim felt his face getting hot.
"This? Is B.T., we work together."
Jim extended his hand. "It's Jim," he said, as they shook. Her hand was tiny and limp. "Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too. Are you guys playing some beer pong tonight?"
Jim looked over at Andy. "I don't know," Jim said.
"Absolutely!" Andy said. "That is why we are here. We want to sign up. How many teams do you have so far?"
"Only a couple," Jessica said. She looked at Jim. "We don't start playing until 9 'o clock, and go into tournaments around 11 PM. It gets pretty intense."
"I bet," Jim said, his eyes widening. O-kay, he thought to himself.
"B.T. and I are going to grab some munchies downstairs, but we'll be back up for beer pong at 9," Andy said to Jessica.
"Excellent," she said, standing up. She winked at Jim.
Jim swallowed, and followed Andy back downstairs. He had a feeling this was going to be a crazy night.
"Yes, we would like an order of Pigs-in-a-Blanket, and the Mac-and-Cheese bites, please." Andy handed the menu back to the waitress. "Oh, and two fishbowls, please."
Jim started to protest, but the woman had already walked away. "Fishbowls?" he asked.
"Cheap way to get drunk fast," Andy said. "It'll be great. Oh, and these Mac-and-Cheese bites are to die for. This is not your mother's mac-and-cheese, I'll tell you that right now."
Jim shook his head, already regretting the decision to come out. The only course of action now, obviously, was to get really, really drunk, so he wouldn't remember anything about this night.
"What the heck is in these things?" Jim asked. He was halfway through his second fishbowl, and it wasn't even 9 'o clock yet.
"No idea," Andy said. They were filled with liquid that was unnaturally blue, and tasted nothing like alcohol.
Jim fished out the plastic shark that rested in the bowl. "I always wanted my own shark," he said, holding it up in front of him.
"Okay," Andy said, already almost finished with his second bowl. He pointed to the almost-empty plates in front of them. "How're you doin' on those mac-and-cheese bites?"
"I couldn't eat any more," Jim said. "They were ... very good."
"What did I tell you?" Andy asked. He glanced down at his watch. "Jim, it is almost time for beer pong, you have got to finish that bowl. I'll get our check."
Andy went off to the other side of the bar to try and find their waitress. "No problem," Jim said to himself, slurping through his straw.
The bar was starting to get a little more crowded at that point. It was still fairly quiet, being a Tuesday night, but more crowded than he expected. Jim attributed that to the fact that this place seemed to be more of a college bar, anyway. He honestly felt like one of the oldest people in the bar. Well, besides Andy, of course. There were a few people that were older than him, but not many. Jim smiled to himself, watching Andy stroll back across the bar in his checked white shirt and beige oxford pants.
Andy was such a doof.
Jim wasn't sure how he was going to fit in tonight - he'd put on a polo shirt and jeans, but apparently, he couldn't have stuck out more than Andy did, so that made him feel better. The wait staff was certainly all very attractive as well, though not really his type. He had tried dating the cute, busty, cheerleader girl-type once (Katy), and that had ended terribly.
(Probably because he was in love with Pam at the time, but still.) Pam wasn't around anymore, and no one was telling him whom he could and couldn't see. The possibilities were endless. And full of women with fake IDs, if this bar signified anything.
They made their way to the upstairs area, where two long tables were set up with six red Solo cups on the either end of each table, in a triangle formation. On the edge of the tables, behind the triangle formation, were cups filled with water. The bartenders were filling pitchers with beer, prepping for the tournament.
"It's a ten-dollar buy-in per team. If you win this round, you play the qualifying round for free, and if you win that round, you get to play next time for free and they give you winner beads," Andy explained as they sat up at the bar.
"Wow," Jim said.
"I have six sets of beads at home. I'm a beer pong master."
Jim just nodded at Andy.
"They'll call us when we're up. Want to know our team name?"
"Sure," Jim said.
"'Death of a Salesman.' Get it? We're salesmen?"
"Sure," Jim said. I would like to see the death of a salesman right now, actually, he thought.
"Plus, I wrote my college senior seminar paper about that play. Great play, really. I only read half of it."
Jim didn't say anything. He was about to order another drink (anything -- anything for a distraction) when Jessica, who apparently was also the emcee for the Beer Pong events, called their team up. She grinned widely when Jim stepped up to the table. Jim smiled crookedly back at her.
"Okay," she said, "I'm sure you know all the rules, but I'm going to cover them quickly. Each team is trying to throw their ball into one of the opposing team's cups. If you get it in, the other team has to drink from that cup. The other team cannot counter the ball unless it has already touched or bounced off the surface of the table. Once it has done that, they can counter or slap the ball back in the other direction. Once the ball has been caught, countered, fallen off the table, or fallen into a beer, it is out of play. The wash cup must be used any time the ball falls on the floor." She gestured to one of the cups of water. "If the wash cup gets dirty, any team member can request that it be replaced, as long as a ball isn't being thrown at that time.
"If the ball falls into a beer cup without bouncing on the table, it is worth one cup of beer. If it bounces against the table, and into the beer cup, it's worth two cups of beer that have to be drunk immediately. Teams will throw until they miss, and the first team to eliminate all the other team’s cups wins. We'll decide who throws first per our usual method: Rock, Paper, Scissors."
Jessica looked up at the four teams standing up front. "Can I have the team captains for Death of a Salesman and The Beer Hounds come forward, please?"
Andy wiggled his eyebrows at Jim and stepped forward towards Jessica. "I have this clinched," he said. "I'm a Rock-Paper-Scissors master."
Jim imagined Dwight in that instant: "Impossible," he would say, "Rock-Paper-Scissors is not a game of strategy; it's a game of statistical chance."
Of course, then, Jim would probably try to convince him that there was a specific strategy to it, involving a particular method of reading your opponent for whether they were a "paper," "rock," or scissors" kind of person. Jim smiled to himself thinking about it.
"Damn," Andy said as he came back towards Jim. "Totally threw me off with a surprise paper." He made a face. "I had rock."
Jim raised his eyebrows, and turned to the side, as if he was looking at the camera. He forgot there wasn't one there. He turned back to Andy. "So we're second, huh?"
"Yeah, but that's okay. They may have a head-start on us, but it doesn't mean they'll sink a shot right away..." The guys across from them, wearing Budweiser shirts, were lining up to take the shot. "Losers!" Andy shouted at them as the one guy tipped his wrist back.
"We're going to smoke you dweebs," the one holding the ball said.
"Doubt it!" Andy shouted back.
"Oh, yeah?" the first guy asked and threw the ball. It landed squarely in one of the middle beers.
"Damn!" Andy said aloud. "All right, rookie drinks the first beer!" He pointed at Jim.
Jim looked at him, and after fishing the ball out and dropping it into the wash cup, he tipped back and finished off the half-cup of beer. "Done," he said. Jim suddenly noticed that everything was starting to get a little hazy. Those fishbowls had gone a lot faster than he thought. Or maybe he couldn't hold his liquor the way he used to. Either way, he was beginning to feel the alcohol, and they had just gotten started. Jim really hoped that these guys didn't beat them.
The next guy went to throw, but made the mistake of trying to bounce off the table to get the extra drink. Jim quickly caught it, and Jessica announced that it was their turn to throw. Jim handed the ball to Andy, assuming he would want to throw first.
Andy paced around their end of the table. "I have a very specific throwing strategy, B.T. It involves deep concentration and meditation for several seconds before..."
"Just throw the ball, asswipe!" One of the guys from the other team shook a finger at Andy.
"This is serious business!" he shouted back. He stared across the table at his opponent, his eyes wide with fury. Or crazy. Jim hadn't quite figured out what that was.
"Guys -- I'd, uh -- take him seriously. He's a very intense sort-of guy." Jim looked over at Andy and then back at the guys they were playing against.
The guys across the way didn't say anything, but rolled their eyes.
Andy took a couple deep breaths, and ball in hand, pointed his fingertips forward, tilting his wrist back, and ...
"Oh my God, that went in!" Jim couldn't help his surprise as he watched Andy sink the first ball. "Wow."
"That's a beer pong master at work, right there, B.T." Andy smiled smugly as he watched one of their opponents chug the beer glass he'd just sunk a ball into. "Can you take the heat?"
"I think so," Jim said. "I have played a game of beer pong or two back in the day." He picked up a ball. "Of course, that was a while ago, so--"
"Shhhhh!" Andy held his finger up to his mouth as he "shushed" the crowd around them. "This is a big moment, here. Big Tuna needs total concentration."
For a half-second, there was total silence. Then: "Lame!" one of their opponents shouted just before Jim was about to throw. Jim jumped slightly, but held onto the ball.
"HEY!" Andy shouted at their tauntor. He walked over the to the other side of the table and got up into the guy's face. The guy probably had a good five inches and fifty pounds on him. "Do you mind?"
The big guy looked back down at Andy, halfway amused. "No. Do you mind?"
"Andy," Jessica interrupted, pushing her small hands in-between them. Both men stopped to stare at her. "You know what I told you last time about starting things."
"Yeah," Andy said.
"Go back over to your side and let Jim take his shot, will you?"
"Okay," Andy said, sighing. He trotted back over to the other side and stood back while Jim reached back and made the shot. The ball fell into a cup. "Yeahhhh!" Andy cried out, jumping up in the air. "High five, B.T.!"
Jim rolled his eyes, but gave Andy the high-five. Anything to hopefully keep Andy from freaking out again.
The game went fairly quickly. Andy missed his next shot, but the guys didn't get any on the next round, and they sank two more in the next round. The last cup turned out to be difficult to make, and they almost ended up in a tie, except that Jim sunk the final cup, sealing their victory for that round.
Andy made him give another series of high-fives and "down-lows." Jim watched as Andy danced around him in some strange victory dance.
He was about to sit back down in the bar when he noticed someone familar ...
"Karen?" Jim asked, walking to the end of the bar. He almost didn't recognize her at first. She was wearing some kind of a pink, ruffled shirt and a matching headband -- and apparently, so were all the other girls she was with, except for one in the middle, who was wearing a low-cut white shirt and a lacy veil.
"Jim?" Karen said. "Oh, God," he heard her say under her breath.
"What--?" He couldn't keep the smile off his face. This was rich. "What is going on?"
"Um," she said. She glanced over at the other girls she was with. "It's a bachelorette party, for my friend Sue."
Jim chuckled. "Nice, uh ... shirt." It looked horrible on her. Pink was an awful color for her complexion, and he never thought someone would look so stupid in a headband.
Odd ... pink had been Pam's best color. It really brought out a rosy, bright quality out in her face. Karen, on the other hand - it just made her complexion look flat, and dirty. He swallowed, trying not to laugh.
"It was Sue's idea," she said, her eyes turning to look at the bride-to-be. Sue was engaged in conversation with another one of her partygoers.
It was at that moment that Jim noticed the straw sticking out of her drink. It was shaped like a penis. Jim pointed at it.
"Subtle," he said.
"Yeah," Karen said. "We are masters of subtlety tonight." Sue was now dancing with a six-foot inflatable penis that they'd brought with them to the bar.
"If I take a sip from that straw, would that make me gay?" Jim asked.
"No, but if you try to have sex with that life-size penis, I may re-think that," Karen said.
"Wow... you just hit it where it hurts, don't you?" Jim grinned.
"Hey, B.T., we're up again in a half hour --" Andy stopped in his tracks when he saw Karen standing there. "Hey ... Karen."
"Andy," Karen said.
Jim quickly gathered that the two of them did not really like each other. It was the most he had ever heard them speak to each other. In fact, this was the most Jim had spoken to any of them in the entire four months he'd worked in Stamford. Interesting what you could learn from just a few words.
"Yeah, we're just ... playing some beer pong tonight," Jim explained. "We're in the finals."
Karen flicked her eyebrows at them. "Classy," she said.
He waited until Andy had walked away, and said: "Hey, you're the one drinking from the penis straw."
Karen flattened her lips.
"Just sayin'," Jim said, and headed back towards the other end of the bar, where Andy was sitting.
"Man," Andy said as Jim sat down. "She is such a bitch."
Jim just shrugged.
Jim had ordered another beer from the bar, and was about halfway through it when his phone beeped. He opened it up; it was his text-message indicator. Text message from: Pam.
Jim's eyes widened. He turned away from Andy, who was busy talking to one of the cocktail servers who worked at the bar.
Michael is hosting the Dundies tonight. It sucks.
Jim smiled, and quickly replied back:
where are you at?
He waited a few seconds, and the phone beeped again.
TGI Fridays. Do you know how long it took to type all those capitals?
Jim smiled, and wrote back:
youre the grammar nazi not me
Another few seconds, then:
Yes. And your last sentence was appalling.
Jim glanced over at Andy. He was still deep in conversation with the busty waitress. He quickly typed:
did you get your dundie?
There was a long pause. Probably about a minute-and-a-half, before his phone beeped again.
He waited a minute, not sure whether to respond to that. Obviously, he wanted to know what train-wreck of a Dundie that Michael had given Pam that year. Judging from her response, she obviously didn't receive a "Whitest Sneakers" award again. Against his better judgment (Jim later blamed it on the alcohol), he wrote back:
what did you get?
Another two minutes passed. Jim finished his beer, and signaled the bartender for another. The beer pong games were going horribly slow, and Jim honestly wasn't looking forward to playing again. Andy would probably come to his apartment and chop him into pieces if he didn't, though, so he figured the only thing that would keep him from going crazy while waiting was drinking more beer. His second beer came just as the phone beeped again.
Um. The Old Maid Dundie.
Jim couldn't help but smile as he read his message. She even wrote the "um" into it. He could imagine her face as she said that to him, and immediately, the urge overtook him to hear her voice. He knew it was against his better judgment, but he dialed her number.
She answered immediately. "Hey," she said, her voice tinny on the other end. He was getting poor reception inside the bar, and the bar noise made it hard to hear.
"Hi," Jim said. "Hey -- let me just step outside for a minute, hold on." He tapped Andy. "I'm going to step outside, come get me if it's our turn, okay?" Andy nodded, distracted, and waved Jim off. Jim took a long slug of his beer before carefully making his way downstairs and out into the chilly fall air. "You there?" he asked as he stepped outside.
"Yeah," he heard her say on the other end. Her voice was a lot clearer now. Even though it was cool outside, just hearing her voice instantly warmed him. He felt his stomach do a flip.
"How bad was it?" Jim asked. He didn't even have to explain what he meant; Pam immediately knew.
"It was ... about what you'd expect. Everyone stared at me while I went up there. Phyllis patted my back and said it would be 'okay.' And Kelly... Kelly keeps trying to set up up on these awful dates, and I just..."
She stopped, probably realizing what an awkward topic it was for them to be discussing.
Jim missed talking to her, though. He almost didn't care that she was talking about going out on dates with other guys that weren't him or weren't Roy. He wanted to talk to her again. He wanted her to be his friend again.
He wanted more than that too, honestly, but it had been so long ... so long since they'd just talked ... like friends. He missed that. He missed her.
"Yeah," Jim said. He changed the subject quickly. "So, what Dundie did Ryan get?"
He heard Pam start to giggle, which made him smile. It felt so good ... so great ... to just talk to her again, like old times.
"Um ... he got the Hottest Junior Sales Associate Dundie."
"Seriously?" Jim mock-sighed. "I was robbed. I should have gotten that award years ago."
"I know," Pam laughed. "You are so much hotter than Ryan."
They both went silent at that for a moment. Jim swallowed. That innocent comment had suddenly taken on much more serious subtext than either had expected. "Pam, are you drunk?" Jim suddenly asked.
"Yeah, I ... had a few mudslides tonight..."
Her response was tepid, though, and he knew she wasn't drunk. There was so much more he wanted to tell her in that moment. How much he missed her. How he wanted to know how she was doing on her own. What kind of classes was she taking? What did her apartment look like? Did she ever think about him? Did she ever wish that night had ended differently, like he did, for so many months following it?
Was she in love with him?
Instead, he just said: "Yeah, I've been playing beer pong tonight."
"Beer pong?" Pam asked. "What?"
"I... went out with one of my co-workers. He's ... nuts. And apparently, a big fan of games that most people give up after the age of twenty-two." He was going to say more, but Andy poked his head out the front door of the bar and started yelling at him.
"Big Tuna! We're up! It's game time!"
"Uh, Pam... I guess I have to go," Jim said. He swallowed again. Just the sound of her voice again ... it made his chest ache and his stomach turn. It was amazing what she did to him.
He heard her snicker on the other end. "Big Tuna?" she asked.
"That ... is a story for another time," Jim said. "I will talk to you later, Beesly."
Beesly. He wondered if she thought about the fact that he knew that she still was a Beesly, and not Mrs. Roy Anderson. Huh.
"Sure," Pam said. "I need to hear more about these wacky new co-workers of yours ... Big Tuna."
"Believe me, Pam," he said, as he walked back into the bar. "I'm sure it's not quite as much craziness as you deal with on an everyday basis. But then again ... no one is like Michael."
"Thank God for that," Pam said. "I'll ... uh, talk to you later, Jim."
"Yeah ... later," Jim said, and pressed the end button on his phone. "I miss you," he whispered to himself as he stared at the phone, before putting it back into his pocket.
"Big Tuna! Time to bring it home!" Andy called to him as he reached the top of the stairs.
Jim nodded. "You know it," he said.