“Wait what?” was all Pam could force out of a throat that suddenly felt far too tight. Her mind was whirling though. Between it’s not my wedding day and why is she calling me and isn’t he in Australia and what can I do all was confusion other than the rapidly mounting is Jim OK? that felt like it would reach up and strangle her. She focused on the woman’s (Larissa’s?) voice on the phone to keep some connection to sanity.
“Umm…and again, I’m really sorry to be calling on this day of all days,” stop telling me you’re sorry tell me what happened “but Jim was in an accident. The cab he was taking to the airport was T-boned and, um, they called me because, you know, I’m his emergency contact and, well, there’s no one else here for him, and I can’t really leave because I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions, and…” wait, medical decisions? Jim can’t make his own medical decisions? How bad is this? “…um, basically, I need someone to go get some things from his apartment and you’re literally the only person I could think of who might know what to get or where to get it.”
“Is Jim OK?” Pam couldn’t fully process the idea that Jim had been here in Scranton, apparently, the whole time, or that his sister knew enough about Pam to call her—or to call her Anderson, which she realized as far as Jim knew was her name now—or any of that, so she focused on the thoughts she could comprehend.
“Sort of? He’s…it’s pretty bad. He’s in and out of consciousness and when he is conscious he’s on so much morphine he might as well be out. I’ll try to tell him you asked though, that’ll mean a lot to him. Um, so I’m here at the hospital, and as I said, I can’t really leave so…”
“Oh! Yeah, of course, I’ll be right there.”
“Thanks, Pam.” The genuine relief in Larissa’s voice was obvious even over the phone. “I’m so sorry to have interrupted…”
“Don’t be.” Pam wasn’t sure she had it in her to explain everything to someone she hadn’t even met in person, even someone who was apparently Jim’s sister, but she had to get that out. She couldn’t stand being apologized to for interrupting a wid edding (or a wedding night) that hadn’t even happened. A small flicker of humor kindled somewhere deep inside her and she thought darkly anyway, if someone’s going to apologize for stopping this wedding, it’s going to be Jim, not Larissa. She grabbed a bag (who knew was mysterious “things” Larissa was going to need from Jim’s apartment) and her purse and hurried out the door.
It did not take long to get from Pam’s apartment to Geisinger Community Health Center, but it felt like ages. She pulled into a parking space and then realized that she should probably be in the parking for the ICU—if Jim was really as out of it as Larissa implied, he wasn’t going to be in the kind of unit that her mother had been in for her (routine, scheduled, comparatively calm) gall bladder surgery two years ago. She pulled around the hospital to the correct lot and strode up to the doors, glancing at the sign in the window that announced visiting hours, which were still ongoing. Breathing a sigh of relief that Larissa had called early enough, she walked through automatic doors and into the lobby, where a surprisingly helpful staff member directed her towards the ICU waiting room. As she entered the room she was surprised at how easy it was to recognize Larissa Halpert even from behind as she paced in front of the vending machine by the bathrooms. After all, how many women looked like a scale model of Jim, down to the still floppy, if much longer, hair? She walked up to her and almost gasped as the woman turned around. She had never thought much about what Jim would look like as a woman (and thankfully Larissa didn’t entirely look like him in the face department—for all that she li…loved Jim’s face, she had to admit it was entirely too masculine for a woman) but this answered those questions she hadn’t even bothered to ask. She briefly wondered if he had dressed up in her clothes growing up before remembering that Larissa was a younger sister—and promptly wondering about the question the other way around. Maybe there were baby pictures she could see that would confirm it. Woah there Beesly, getting ahead of yourself. She looked up at the woman and smiled, before receiving an entirely unexpected full-body hug.
“You must be Pam! You’re just like Jim described you.” Jim described me? “Thank you so much for coming.”
“Well, I really hope you’re Larissa, or this is going to be a really fast and really awkward conversation.”
“I am! What gave it away? Was it the body, the face, or the hug?” She gestured as she spoke, reminding Pam irresistibly of Jim, especially when she quirked an eyebrow up in mock-query as she ended the question.
“Probably the hair.” Pam smiled at Larissa.
“That does make sense,” Larissa nodded, and then her face grew serious and Pam realized that, like Jim, Larissa used humor to mask when she was scared, or nervous, or tired—and she was all three, if her facial expressions were anything like her brother’s. “Seriously, thank you for coming. I’m going crazy here alone.” She seemed to stop herself bodily. “Not that I expect you to stay with me! I know this is, like, the worst timing and everything, and you said not to be sorry but I can’t help but worry that I’m really imposing on you.”
Pam found herself instinctively trying to do for Larissa what she’d felt Jim do for her so many times: calm down her nerves and get her out of her funk. “I said don’t be sorry and I meant it. You are not imposing; I’m glad to help. It sounds like you need it. Have you really been here all alone?”
“Oh god, yes. Mom and Dad are…well, this is, like, the worst irony in the world, you know, but they’re in Australia right now.”
“Seriously?” Pam stared at her.
“Yeah. After…well, after Jim decided he had to go to Australia, and um…” Larissa played with a hairband on her wrist for a moment “Um…after he told us why, Mom and Dad bought tickets out to Sydney themselves to surprise him.”
Pam had no intention of letting that “told us why” slip by unchallenged, but she forcibly reminded herself that right now this was not about her. “So they’re in Australia, and you’re here, and so it’s all in your lap.”
Larissa nodded forcefully. “Yeah. Actually, they should just have landed in Sydney today; the flight takes forever and they couldn’t get tickets the same day as Jim, so they were going to go to the same hotel and surprise him there. I left a message but I haven’t even heard back, and I’ve had to deal with all these ”
Pam suddenly realized how young Larissa had to be—half the time Jim talked about her it was like she was 12, and the other half like she was 40, so she wasn’t sure of her true age, but right now she looked like a frightened college student—so she wrapped Larissa in a hug, unselfconsciously returning the gesture from a few minutes before. “It’ll be all right. They’ll get your message. And it sounds like you’ve been managing really well on your own.”
“Thank you. You have no idea how hard this has been. Jim’s…well, he’s always been there for me, him and Mom and Dad, and I’m trying so hard to be there for him…”
“And you are.” It occurred to Pam how much she wanted to be there for Jim, too, and how often he’d been there for her—even including the last few weeks, he’d managed to be there for her enough in the previous three years to make the balance decidedly on his side. “Now, what can I do?”
“Oh! So, in addition to Mom and Dad being…you know,” she gestured in what was apparently in her head the vague direction of Australia, “Jim’s roommate Mark had a wedding to go to in Colorado this week, up in the mountains, so he’s not here and I can’t get ahold of him at all. I have Jim’s cellphone—they gave me his stuff—so I tried calling you but it didn’t go through. Then I ran out of ideas…it’s not like Jim has a lot of friends he’s told me about, you know? But then one of the nurses—they’re really lovely—suggested I try to find out your home phone number. I called 411 and they connected me, and…”
“And I picked up the phone, and now I’m here. So what do you need?”
“I need you to get Jim’s stuff.”