“With me? Why me?”
“Yeah, you. Cause I’m having trouble reading you right now and that sucks. It’d never happened before.”
He could say that it was nothing. That it was all in her mind and that it had been a weird day to begin with, but then… why should he always keep those things inside him?
“Well, maybe you should consider that I’ve changed during these months away.” He said, trying not to sound too friendly.
He was tempted to give a step back, but he had started talking and she should stop assuming things about him anymore.
“Really? What would you know?”
“I know you.”
“Oh, really?” he repeated, and his voice dripped sarcasm, and it sounded harsh to his own ears.
“Yeah. I know you and, you know what? You don’t get to do this!” She waved her hand around, as if ‘this’ meant the whole of Scranton Business Park. “To do this “feeling awkward hugging you” act that you tried to do in the morning. You don’t get to change everything about you and say you’re “evolving”. Evolving! From what? And you know... whatever. Drink whatever you want or… do whatever you want. But you don’t get to shove me off your shoulder as if… as if I was nothing more than an annoying colleague you once met.”
“Why would I be doing that, I wonder.”
“Well, clue me in because I have no fucking idea!”
“Oh, you don't? Listen, Pam, I don’t have time for this, ok? I’ll just go.”
“No. You don’t walk away from me like this.”
That struck a chord inside him. A memory, still fresh despite his efforts, on this very same parking lot.
“Like you did, you mean?”
“What? I didn’t-” for the first time her voice quivered a little. “You’re the one who left, remember? Gone the next day! As if you never existed!”
He had, of course. He convinced the guard he needed to get into the office at 6 am, and then he cleaned his desk. Every paperclip, every picture, every stupid Olympics medal, gone.
“You said you’d marry him! As if me saying I loved you didn’t matter.”
“And you couldn’t stick around for five minutes to find out I was just terrorized, could you?”
Terrorized? Of all things! “What? About what?”
“Don’t you get it?” Pam said through clenched teeth. “You turned my entire world upside down that night.”
“You can honestly say you didn’t see that coming?”
“How could I? One day you were my friend, playing pranks on Dwight and stealing jelly beans, and then all of a sudden you decide to tell me that you loved me?”
“I… I thought I was making it all clear. Every day. Every joke. Every time we were together. It should've been obvious to you that I liked you!” Was it, though? He had grown so used to the notion of being in love with Pam, it had never really occurred to him that she might not be as aware of it as he was.
“You weren’t. It wasn't. And your… revelation? It only made it all so confusing. And then you disappeared! If you’d stayed 2 days… no, 24 hours, you would’ve gotten the answer you wanted to get. But no… you were hurt or whatever, because I didn’t rush into your arms and left behind my entire life. And that sucked, Jim. I am a planner. I overthink things. And you forgetting all about it…”
24 hours. Really? It felt as if air had been punched out of his system. Would she have come to him then? Would she have had another answer?
“Why didn’t you tell me you’d called off the wedding?”
It was her turn to gasp for words for a moment.
“Because… because I didn’t want to assume that you would- And then, everybody knew. For weeks that was basically the only thing people was talking about at the office. And I figured you’d find out and do something about it.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“You weren’t answering your phone.”
She seemed to shrink a little, shoulders hunched, as if she wanted to occupy as little room as possible.
“I was scared.”
“Yeah,” her eyes met his, challenging despite it all.
“I don’t know. About… that night. Casino night almost killed me. And I guess… I don’t know. I was scared.”
“Well… to answer your question, what’s wrong with me? I’m scared, too.”
He laughed humorlessly. “You still don’t get it, Pam. All those years, being in love with you and watching you go home with somebody else, somebody who didn’t even treat you right… that killed me. And the moment I learned I was to come back here, I knew it couldn’t be like that. I couldn’t keep on being that guy anymore.”
“But I’m not with Roy. I’ve never should’ve been with him. And… I called off my wedding because of you. In case it isn’t obvious by now.”
They stayed silent for a while. Pam looking at him, almost without blinking. Jim looking around, at the almost empty parking lot, at the building behind her, at her jacket, and her scarf. Not her eyes, though. Anything but her eyes.
“I like your hair. It’s a little different,” he finally said.
She touched the tips, now looking at her feet. “Have you ever considered it could be the other way around?”
“What if I tell you that... I’m in love with you?” She put her hand on his forearm, with a little hesitation. “And you never misinterpreted anything because I’ve been for a very long time. So, there. You say you can’t be here if it’s going to be like we were when I was with Roy. Well, I can’t have you here without you knowing that.”
He sighed, and looked at her. “Pam... All those months…”
“Screw those months,” and she turned around and headed to her car.