Los Angeles airport was just as boring as Philadelphia airport, or Scranton-Wilkes Barre airport, or indeed any airport that Jim had ever been in. It should, he thought, have been more exciting. But as usual, the problem was in him (in his misinterpreting things, specifically). If he were more interested in where he was going, the places along the way would probably be more interesting too. Or maybe he’d be just as bored in LAX thinking about how awesome Australia might be as he was thinking about what he’d left behind in Scranton.
In an effort to snap himself out of it during his extremely long layover (the travel agent had been very convincing about the benefits of a three-plus hour layover: “no chance you’ll miss your second flight!”) he wandered the terminals, searching out the best food, the comfiest seats, the least annoying fellow travelers. He ended up with a burrito from some overpriced Mexican place (when in California, at least he could get something better than Taco Bell) and a chair tucked in the corner by a single gate (not his own) that didn’t seem to have much traffic.
Unfortunately, the wrapped nature of a burrito meant that, after a certain point, he couldn’t really linger out the experience or it would all fall apart.
Kind of like his life.
In order to dislodge that particular idea, he found himself wandering the aisles of a Hudson News, searching for something to read. Unfortunately, the candy was on an endcap next to the tabloids, and he kept catching glimpses of the headlines as he pondered the newly endless variety of peanut butter-based candies provided by Reese’s.
Not his favorite words, but much preferable, he quickly realized, to the ones that almost sent him to his knees in the middle of a mediocre news-and-water peddler.
It was, he tried to note dispassionately, just some minor soap star he’d never really heard of except in passing in a Kelly-sourced diatribe. It wasn’t really that important. But the thought of a broken engagement, a woman who refused to walk down the aisle because she had a better option, a wedding that never happened, was too hard to take. It made him feel like a failure. That woman had left her fiancée at the altar just for herself; Pam hadn’t been willing to do the same with the additional impetus of him.
As he started the long walk back towards his gate, Reese’s Take 5 in hand (the Fast Break had looked good until he’d thought a little more about the words) he started to wonder about that distinction he’d drawn between the starlet and Pam. The starlet had done it for herself. Wasn’t that really what he’d want for Pam? Did he want her to leave Roy just for him, or because Roy was wrong for her? The answer was both, of course, but which should predominate? Was he really Pam’s best friend, or just a guy who wanted to get into her pants?
Not even the pretzel bits in the Take 5 could make that last thought go down easily.
There was only so much on TV. Chopped was good, but the Food Network feed was grainy. Jeopardy had been fun, but it was only half an hour. The poker tournament was out, given…well…everything. Pam threw down the remote and started pacing the hotel room. She wasn’t, actually, bored. She was just unable to stop herself from thinking about Jim.
She’d broken up with Roy three days before the wedding, a day before Jim was set to fly to Australia. It hadn’t been an easy conversation, but it felt like it should have been harder: ten years of love should take more than an hour to unravel. But then again, it had been unraveling for years; the last conversation was more like flaking off a piece of dead skin than ripping off a bandaid.
Why hadn’t she done it before?
But then again, why should she have? She hadn’t known how Jim felt about her. She hadn’t really known how she felt about him until he had told her how he felt. But that hadn’t really been the thing that pushed her to break up with Roy. It had been the way he’d responded when, ever since Casino Night, she’d tried to put the same emotional burden on him that she’d realized she’d been putting on Jim for years. She’d tried to start lightly: talking to him about her day, showing him more of her art, asking him to tell her a little about his own day even. She’d realized that she didn’t just ask things of Jim; she gave to him too. She listened to him like he did to her, a give and take that made her feel both more alive and happier. So she tried, really tried, not to just ask Roy to take her burdens but to take his from his shoulders as well.
But it turned out he didn’t need or want that from her, and he had no space in his day to take on any of her concerns either. It wasn’t that he was cruel. He didn’t shout or scream or hit anything or anyone. He just…shrugged a lot. And grunted. And basically continued to be the same Roy he’d been ever since they moved in together.
If they’d really been right for each other, it would have been enough.
But it wasn’t.
And now she was pacing around a single room thinking about a man who was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Jim wasn’t her rebound from Roy; he was the man she’d actually been in relationship with (in the sense that her childhood pastor had meant when he’d talked about “being a church in relationship with the community,” responsive to its needs and concerned about its concerns). In a moment of energy, she flung open the door and stalked down to the business center. She didn’t have a personal laptop (“saving up for the wedding” was the biggest grift she’d ever done on herself, she was quickly realizing) but the hotel had to have some kind of computer she could use.