At 12:26 on a Friday night--well, Saturday morning, technically--most people his age would be out at the bar, or sitting on beat up couches in someone's living room, surrounded by good company, food, and laughter.
But not James Halpert.
Instead, Jim was sitting on his own beat up couch, surrounded by the company of old Boy Meets World reruns, laughter provided by Walt Disney Studios, and a half empty bag of Doritos.
The bachelor life was, indeed, as glamourous as they made it seem.
Sure, he had received numerous invitations to go out and do normal things that twenty-something single men did on the weekends. The guys from the warehouse had asked him to join them at Poor Richard’s for their weekly beer and darts games, but he said he had plans elsewhere. Technically not a lie: He had plans with his couch, and Cory and Topanga.
Mark, his roommate, invited him to tag along on his double date to see “When A Stranger Calls.” He’d said he didn’t want to be a fifth wheel. Not a lie at all. Fifth-wheeling was lame, and “When A Stranger Calls” also looked lame.
Even his brother, Pete, had offered to come over for drinks and pizza and Xbox competitions like they had done when they were in high school. He’d said he was sick.
And although he’d felt bad for turning his own flesh and blood down, that one wasn’t entirely a lie either.
He was heartsick.
As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he couldn’t pull himself together enough to have a good time when the forefront of all his thoughts was always her.
Pam, who he was hopelessly, irretrievably, unrequitedly in love with.
Pam, who was his best friend, his pranking partner, his confidant. She made him laugh so hard that he shed tears, made his worst moods seem insignificant, made him see a new lightness to his otherwise dull-grey life. She was the woman who always made sure there was an extra stash of green jellybeans behind her desk--in a separate bowl, just for him--because she knew they were his favorite.
She was the very same woman who, not a few weeks prior, he had almost bared his soul to on the deck of the Lake Wallenpaupack Princess. She had blamed the cold, went back inside the cabin, and less than an hour later, had set a date for her wedding.
He hadn’t been quick enough.
He had choked; simple as that.
And now, he was wallowing in self pity.
It wasn’t so bad during the week. During the week, he could busy himself in his work, stay at the office until day turned to night, spend an abnormal amount of time making elaborate dinners for one, and then bother his roommate until both of them were tired out.
It was the weekends that had begun to kill him.
For the first weekend after what he had officially dubbed “The Blues Cruise,” (Because now I’m singin’ the blues about my pathetic love life. Get it?!? he had shared with Mark, who rolled his eyes on his way out the door), he had definitely made a solid effort of drowning his sorrows in the bottle. He let Darryl and some guys from the warehouse get him belligerently drunk, paying for shot after shot as they helped him to--as he had easily convinced them--“get over Katy.” A few downward glances, some references to a “fight on the boat,” even a misplaced tear, and they were all too easily convinced. Quickly, he was three sheets to the wind.
The only problem with his master plan was that, although he was manipulating his friends into buying him drinks to “get over” his ex...girlfriend? He wouldn’t consider her that significant. His ex-distraction was much better. Regardless, the alcohol was supposed to make him forget. Didn’t matter if his buddies thought he was trying to forget Katy when he was actually using it to forget the fianceé of one of the men who was supplying the alcohol (while subsequently patting his back and telling him things like, “Damn, Halpert, that red-headed fox is gonna be tough to get over. If I wasn’t engaged to Pammy, I’d for sure be tryin’ to rebound on that!”). The results had been the exact opposite.
Seven beers and three shots of tequila later, he found himself stumbling into a booth, spouting fragmented, I miss her so much-es and Why can’t she just be with me?’s. Of course, without saying a name, he was still so much under the disguise of grieving the loss of Katy, and the men catered to him like any “bros” would do. Outside, the alcohol conjured the image of a man grieving a short relationship. Inside, the alcohol was creating vivid images of Pam in his brain, flashes of her smile, the way she stuck her tongue between her teeth when she smirked at him, that giggle that lit him up like a Christmas tree. It was pure torture.
He said he felt sick and they called him a cab, and he spent the next six unbearable hours lying awake, watching mind-memories of Pam while he absentmindedly followed the clockwise rotation of his ceiling fan.
So, going out was clearly not the solution, and neither was alcohol. He was trying to forget, and alcohol just made it worse.
He had come to settle for grape soda (he was on his fifth, at this point in the night), and reruns of mindless television. While they didn’t make him forget entirely, his mind was certainly lost for at least a few hours until his body complained with exhaustion. It was only when he finally dragged himself up the stairs that he was suddenly wide awake, his mind swimming with thoughts of Pam: memories of Pam, fantasies of a future with Pam, weird scenarios where he replaced beloved movie characters with himself and Pam (most recently, they starred together in The Notebook). It was the weekend's where he lost the most sleep.
As midnight turned to 1, and one AM crawled towards two, his cell phone rang. An expression mixed with intrigue and annoyance played at his brows. It was most likely Mark wanting a ride home because he and his girlfriend had drank too much and he was too cheap to pay for a cab. Whatever. It would give Jim something to do while he waited for morning to come.
But it wasn’t Mark.
It was Pam.
Pam Beesly, calling him at 1:37 in the morning.
Something was clearly wrong.
As this realization dawned on him, his phone was instantly at his ears, and his “Pam? Is everything okay?” was quickly cut off.
“Oh my god, Jim, I’m so sorry. I woke you up, didn’t I?”
“Pam, are you okay? Are you hurt? What’s wrong?”
It wouldn’t have mattered if she had woken him. She could wake him up to unjam her toaster for all he cared.
“No, Jim, I’m fine. God, this is so stupid. I shouldn’t have called you. I just...nevermind. I’m so sorry I interrupted your night.”
He could hear the desperation and frustration in her voice as he let out his own sigh of relief at her safety. He could breathe again. His muscles relaxed, and he sank back into the couch.
“Well, I’m glad you’re safe, Beesly. But seriously, what’s going on? Shouldn’t you be sleeping? It’s almost two in the morning.”
“I could say the same to you, Halpert.” He could hear the smile tugging at her lips. Whatever was bothering her, he had clearly put her at ease. That brought him some semblance of pride.
“Well, obviously we’re both wide awake,” he quipped, shifting himself so that his legs were now splayed across the couch, propped up on one another. “So what’s up with the booty call?”
The words slipped out, and his gulp was masked by her giggle on the other end of the call, 7 minutes and 29 seconds across town (without being stopped by lights. With lights, it was 8 minutes and 3 seconds).
“Ughh, Jim, I swear I only called you because I didn’t know what to do. Now, I’m seriously regretting it, because I know you’re not going to give up until I tell you.”
“Damn straight, Beesly. So spill. For what expertise of mine are you calling to inquire about on this fine Saturday morning? Did you need my grilled cheese recipe for a midnight snack? Did you wake up from a dead sleep with a new idea to prank Dwight that you just needed to tell me about now? Are you Patient Zero of a new strain with zombie-like symptoms that you need my assistance curing before you turn into a flesh-eating monster?”
He listened to moments of laughter trail into radio silence on her end for what seemed like forever before she began to speak with an echo he hadn’t noticed until now.
“Um, not exactly.” She trailed off, silent again, before an offer that made his heart nearly beat out of his chest. “Since you’re obviously as awake as I am, would you want to come over? It would just be easier to show you.”
It was nearly two-o’clock on Saturday morning, and Pamela Morgan Beesly had just asked him to come over.
Surely he was reading into this, wasn’t he?
The last he’d checked--which had been right before she’d left work earlier that afternoon--she was still wearing her engagement ring. She hadn’t called him crying, so he assumed she and Roy were still together. So why was she calling him over to her house in the middle of the night?
He was on his feet, coat in hands, before the words had left his mouth.
“Yeah, sure, I’ll be there in like 10 minutes.”
She seemed to sigh in relief, only peaking his curiosity as to what was truly happening over on Monroe Avenue.
“Awesome, see you soon!”
“Yeah, see you soon.”
Jacket mis-buttoned, he jumped into the frigid February air in a sweat that countered the 19 degree weather.
He made the drive in 6 minutes flat.