“All Right. Then it’s a date”.
I quickly stepped back out from the doorway, before she could ask me any questions or even look back at me again – there was so much to say, so much to tell her but it was not a conversation I wanted to have in front of the documentary crew, or the rest of the office for that matter. This was going to change my whole life, if I didn’t screw it up. Four years in the making, this act was not one for the cameras and I had no intention of letting them know where we would be, at what time or what we would discuss.
It had been a long day, a really long day, but the excitement I felt headed back to the office gave me the energy of 10 overpriced, over-hyped trendy NY coffees. The long drive was full of visions of a shared life I would soon have with the woman I’d loved for what seemed like my entire existence. I couldn’t believe I’d almost lost any potential future in my foolish attempt to try and put out that flame with someone who, in an alternate universe, a world with no Pam, might have made me happy. Try as I did to replace her in my heart, in my reality, Pam was the premium edition while Karen was a solid, but still generic model. Sure, she liked to laugh, but not with that joyful glee Pam exuded when she did. She was friendly, but didn’t emit the same degree of warmth. She joined in my pranks but I never got the sense it made her giddy in the way it had for Pam. In short, she never completely got me. But most of all, I never felt that surge of electricity in my body that I experienced whenever Pam was near. Hard as I tried to shield myself from that magnetic current, I slowly found myself succumbing to the gravitational pull she had over me. Even just yesterday it was her face, her reaction I sought out as Jan paraded her newly implanted casabas through the office. Pam’s animated gesticulation was the one that made me snigger with glee. Karen’s attempt to get a chuckle out of me somehow fell flat as Jan’s old chest.
Karen had been right, our relationship had zero chance if we stayed in Scranton, but deep down in my soul I had realized it had no chance even if we did leave. The force field would slowly creep to wherever I went and eventually pull me back to where Pam was, just as it had done when I ultimately made the decision to return 6 months ago and just as it was doing right now.
Finding Pam in the conference room doing a talking head interview was one more stroke of luck I was sure was due to the gold charm I discovered that morning. When she wasn’t at her desk, I quickly surveyed the office to locate the beautiful features that were involuntarily and permanently imprinted on my soul. I finally located clipped-back, copper curls through the half-open blinds of the window that separated the multi-purpose room from the main part of the office. I marched right past everyone, ignoring Andy’s forceful interrogations and Phyllis’ restrained but curious inquiries. Luckily Dwight was busy collecting his things from what, for less than a day, had been his new office and was now being reverted back to its original owner. I was unfazed it was painted completely black. I expected as much from my never-a-dull moment, at times insufferable deskmate and had I not been on an express trajectory to the star around which my world spun, I may have stopped to have my fun with that. But today my instinctive drive to mess with Dwight was overpowered by the silent but overwhelming pull that summoned me back to her.
I bust open the door, breaking the unwritten rule about interview sessions. She was mid-sentence, answering what was likely a pretty basic inquiry, but one that would coerce her to stray from the simple question she was asked.
I don’t know how, but the documentarian really knew how to ask questions that got us talking. Even though the questions seemed benign, I often found myself saying more than I intended in that room. It was hard to keep my feelings completely private from him. I used humor to deflect but I think he was learning to see right through my defensive wall of wisecracks and would press me to talk about stuff I really didn’t want to admit. Not to him and not to myself. Now Pam, she was a little better at holding back than I was. She was able to keep it a little more matter of fact. At least that was what she told me when she came out of the room after her sessions. I accepted this as true being as she often came out of the room with what I called her “Rudolph face”. Her nose had this way of going slightly pink when she was embarrassed or flustered or trying to hide her feelings. I’d first seen it years ago, before the documentary started, when she accepted her Dundy for the second year in a row for longest engagement. After that I learned to spot the pink hue whenever she was holding back what she really wanted to say, more often than not when she scuffled with Roy in front of me or defended the boorish behaviors of her fiancé to me.
I’m not quite sure what they were talking about but from the look of it she was trying to put on that same brave face. I’d seen it quite often when she was still affianced to the oaf and more recently, when office activities threw her in with Karen and me or when she had to endure Michael or Kevin’s allusions to or straight out mentions of any sexual relations we were having. Sure enough, the tip of her adorable little nose was turning as pink as her sweater. After two years with the documentary crew part of our lives, I’d come to know about their interrogation tactics and had a hunch this was about me. This was probably the 2nd or 3rd line of questioning for today, court was now in session and she was on the stand, being pressed by the opposing counsel. It’s no wonder she seemed so stiff and armored as they pressed her to plead guilty. I’d put her through a lot this half year or so what with coming back to Scranton with a co-worker that would become my girlfriend and be the cause of her own conflicted feelings. Theirs was an on-again, off-again frenemy-ship and that was entirely due to me and even I knew it was no longer tenable. Moreover, after the speech she delivered at the beach, I knew the state of anguish she must have been in. In her attempts to be a stronger person, she had braved something so insane that only Michael could have the preposterous idea to ask it of his employees and, aside from her, only Dwight was imprudent and sycophantic enough to do it. Despite my feet having been spared the pain of the coal walk, I knew exactly how it felt to be in her shoes. After all it had been me in her position the entire time she had been with Roy.
“Here goes everything,” I thought to myself as two faces and a camera jerked my way as I leaned in the doorway. I apologized for my interruption and then posed the question that would alter my future from here on in. She stared at me, frozen for what seemed like an eternity before she finally answered me.
“Yes.” She replied with a slight catch in her voice.
With her answer still ringing in my ears I slowly retreated from the scene and shut the door, but my eyes stayed glued on her face through the window slats. Even in profile, I could see her whole face light up into the beaming smile that I’d fallen in love with years before. Her joyous expression said everything I needed to know before I stepped back from conference room and slipped out of the office without so much as a word to anyone else. A wise crack from Creed, Michael or God forbid, Dwight might destroy the memory of this moment and this was a memory I wanted untarnished. I wanted this memory to remain as gold as my mixed berry Olympic medal.
In the parking lot, I sat in the car and stared up at the office window, knowing I would be returning tomorrow to a different place than I had left yesterday evening. But whatever happened tonight I knew I had done the right thing. Never in my life had I felt so confident in a decision, even if it took me the better part of a year to come to it.
David had been very understanding, even if he didn’t quite understand. I’d given him no concrete explanation for my sudden gear shift. One minute I’m answering what I liked about Scranton, how I thought I’d fit in in New York and the next minute I’m telling him I’ve reconsidered. When I told him I no longer wanted to pursue the position, he pressed me to think about it.
“We have been very happy with your performance and I will share you were a top contender for this spot. You sure there is nothing I can do to change your mind.”
I looked once more at the shiny gold circle on my lap, my talisman so to speak and gave him my answer relieved he requested I would still stay on in Scranton. In that moment the only logic, the only rationale was Pam. I felt no fear, no doubt. I needed to earn the gold medal she’d awarded me. I needed to jump.
The power of my good luck charm must have been at play when I was fortunate enough to line up a reservation for that very evening. There was really only one place I wanted to bring her and I called Gricco’s before I even left the city, before I even left the Dunder Mifflin headquarters. It was the first thing I did after I excusing myself from his office, the first step in my plan for the rest of my life. If only the next thing I would have to do could be as simple as calling the restaurant or deceiving the cameraman. If history were any indication, it wouldn’t. It was going to be messy and bitter and bumpy. But without a shred of indecision or even hesitation, I picked up the phone and began to dial.