That’s how long it had been since he left her on her doorstep with a kiss to the forehead that left her lightheaded and giddy for every day since.
21 days ago, Jim returned. He’d been back in Scranton for over 6 months, but he hadn’t really come home until the moment he showed up in the doorway, the little rap on the glass after he asked her out reminiscent of the way he had always drummed his fingers on her desk. Like a magician’s wave, the tapping gesture instantly restoring things to the way they had been before he ever left but with one big difference. No more misinterpretations of what they meant to one another. No more pretending that office pals were all they were to each other. Their friendship now was something more than that.
In this last 504 hours Pam was happier than she’d ever been. Happier than when she first discovered crayons as a little girl. Gladder than when the dance class she begged to take was finally over; when through “sticking it out” at ballet knowing full well she would never become a prima ballerina but bound to finishing the 10 sessions because her parents taught her early on to follow through on her commitments. She had more joy than when they moved to the bigger house with the fireplace and the basement and the bedroom of her own that she didn’t have to share with her sister. Her spirits were higher than when she and Roy first began dating in high school. She floated aloft a fluffier cloud nine than she had even during the first weeks of her engagement.
In these 30,204 minutes, Michael’s jokes were funnier. Dwight’s habits were less annoying. Andy’s songs were somewhat melodious. Angela’s cats were cuter. Even Kelly’s chatter seemed quieter, although that may have been more due to the fact she’d barely came out from her nook since Ryan dumped her and moved to New York when he got the corporate job.
In those 1,814,400 seconds time seemed to stop but they hadn’t.
They hadn’t stopped smiling.
They hadn’t stopped kissing.
But most of all they hadn’t stopped talking.
Jim had suddenly rediscovered his love of jellybeans, returning to his old habits of dropping by Pam’s desk for some candy and conversation multiple times per day, once again drumming his fingers on her desk. Now as they rhythmically rapped the Formica surface her mind flashed to what those nimble fingers felt like as they strummed over her body like a stringed instrument.
Going out to eat was a marathon event, one where their laughter was only drowned out by their grumbling bellies when they still had not eaten after two hours. It wasn’t poor service but an incapacity to stop sharing long enough to decide what to order. Not making any new friends of the waitstaff in the local places — Beth, the sweet waitress from their first date was the only one tolerant of their over-exuberant laughter and languid stays at the table—they decided it was best to eat at home until they could learn to pin their conversations long enough to focus on menus and waiters and anything else but each other.
Even in bed, when lips were not busy exploring, when mouths were not occupied sampling the salty sweetness of lobes and napes, shoulders and elbows, when tongues were not entwined in delicious, tangled harmony, they worked at their most primary functions, forming the words that they continued to exchange, sharing everything they could as they lay wrapped in each other’s arms.
They talked about everything, their childhoods and school days, their families and friends, their loves, hates and insecurities, uncovering brand new things about each other in each breath.
Jim always knew Pam had been focused on her art in high school. What he didn’t know as that she also played volleyball competitively until her height, or lack of it kept her from being a standout player and she was still a little bitter that despite her ability, she was often sidelined in favor of taller, but in her opinion, less skilled players.
Pam knew Jim played basketball in high school. What she never knew was before that he was an all-star baseball player. She learned how he broke his father’s heart when he quit the sport, finally having grown tired of double headers where he spent more time waiting in the dugout for his turn at bat or in the outfield for a pop fly to come his way. What surprised her even more was his insecurity about his batting. As he described the anxiety he had when he would step up to the plate, Pam knew exactly the discomfort he spoke of, the acid-fueled stomach pain and chest-constricting tightness was the same thing she felt when she was thrust into new situations with new people, but it was strange to hear that Jim, one of the most confident people she knew could be anything but sure of himself.
Jim learned Pam’s love for berries was matched only by her hatred of green olives which Jim happened to love and Jim’s dislike of chickpeas was disappointing for Pam to learn about as she suggested they pick up some hummus and pita chips while they shopped for some weekend snacks at Gerrity’s. When she teased that his aversion to hummus was the dealbreaker and they might as well call it quits right there, he chased her around the olive bar with two pimento stuffed jumbos held in front of his eyes until they got reprimanded by a store employee wearing the same stern expression as the one who chastised them at the Rite Aid when they went shopping for Kevin.
They spent hours rehashing the actions of TV characters from shows they both watched, the shows that in the past they had always discussed in depth the day after. A deep analysis of what Izzy and George, Chase and Cameron and Sawyer and Kate were up to over the past season kept them up into the wee hours of the morning before culminating in their own passionate reenactment of the desert island captives.
They dissected every absurd moment from their shared office, talking about things they missed even when they were both there. With their strained friendship under Karen’s microscope for much of the past few months, they may have been sharing the same space but not the same experiences. And so much had happened to both of them in the time Jim was so noticeably absent.
In their 1,814,400 seconds of nonstop discussions, they still hadn’t come close to filling each other in on all these moments they missed.
On this particular Thursday, they lay entwined on the love seat that served as the solitary seating in Pam’s living area. Jim now understood why it was called that, since they only both fit on if they snuggled extra close as they lay across it. And still the small couch didn’t quite accommodate Jim’s long legs, his ankles lay up on the arm, his feet hung over it while Pam nestled her whole entire body up against his back in the cozy space in front of him. A plush blanket covered Jim’s lower half and almost all of Pam.
On the television Meredith Grey was imparting her thoughts and wisdom on the passing of time as Jim twisted a barrel curl in his finger, his soft breath tickling her neck as they talked over the dialogue of the old Grey’s Anatomy episode. Pam’s yearbook lay on the carpeted floor open to the page where a young Pam Beesly smiled up at him. The warm eyes and bright smile unmistakable, the youthful face a little fuller and fresher with an expression mirroring the one on a fresh-faced Izzy as a new intern in the flashback scene playing out on the show. The show they weren’t really watching. Once he found the book, there was even more to talk about.
“Aha the yearbook!” Jim proclaimed as he discovered it buried under the blanket in the wicker chest at the foot of the bed.
“I told you I wasn’t hiding it,” Pam shot back as she joined him in the room, “where was it?”
“Hidden inside this blanket.”
“Not hidden, just put away.” She pushed at him playfully. “And it’s not my fault we get distracted every time we come into this room to look for it.”
“Yeah, I know your ways. You lure me into bed just to preoccupy me from my mission of seeing my young Beesly in her formative years. Lucky for me your feet got cold tonight.”
She smiled coyly at him as he handed her the blanket he was sent in the room to retrieve, and he suddenly heard his own words, the unintended double entendre that slipped from his lips. Touching them tenderly to hers he added, “and a year ago, too.”
She began kissing back, softly but as her lips lingered on his she gently urged his open with her tongue and he almost forgot about the book.
“Oh no you don’t. There you go again. Those wiles are not going to work this time.”
He pulled from her and turned away back towards the other room, flipping through the pages as he walked until he got to the one he was looking for, “and there she is.”
He beamed as he stared at her photo, she was adorable just as he imagined she would be.
“You’re so cute. Why would you not want me to see this?”
“I keep telling you, I wasn’t hiding it. I really didn’t know where it was.”
“Yeah, I’m not buying that, Beesly, any more than I believe Dwight’s claim his student government election was rigged.”
Pam giggled, recalling how last week Dwight insisted he would have been elected class president if everyone at his high school, including the faculty, weren’t corrupt and biased against farmers. It was the reason he gave for not attending his high school reunion a few years back and he brought it up again as Pam and Jim talked about their 10-year reunions, both that were happening this summer.
“Ok, you’ve seen the photo. Can we go watch the show now?”
He walked stealthily away from her, the book still in hand. He scanned the pages for Roy Anderson. While in the past and no longer the thing standing between him and Pam, he still was curious about the guy she almost married, the high school football star he almost lost her to.
His picture was on the opposite page two boxes over from hers. He looked like Roy, only younger. The same smug smile stared up from the page, only his hair was poofier and his cheeks a little fuller, but Jim had to admit he was good looking even back then when most other guys were still in their goofy looking stage. Jim knew he still had not quite grown into his looks back then. Pam probably never would have noticed him in high school. He was, as she so lovingly put it when she discovered his yearbook, so dorky.
They probably had homeroom together. Pam probably sat near him every day through years of middle and high school, her sparkling smile bearing into him as it did to Jim in his years of sitting near her in the office. But he never did see what she saw in him.
He imagined Roy was the same jerk back then, only then he was the football star, popular and attractive and maybe better at hiding his less admirable personality traits. Lucky for Jim, he stayed the same jerk he was in high school, not maturing much while Pam did and finally opened her eyes to the chump he probably always was.
“And there’s your ex-buffoon,” he said sardonically.
Finding himself naturally curious about what message Roy put to paper as they neared graduation, he began to scan the page but not before he glanced back at Pam for assurance he wasn’t overstepping. In all their talking they still hadn’t discussed him much and Jim wasn’t going to push her to now.
Her rolling her eyes and natural smile indicated she had nothing to hide so he turned back to the pages and suddenly could see why she seemed so at ease. Roy hadn’t written anything to her, the only message inscribed was from a from a Rich Beazer, the first male to come between Pam and Roy, at least on the pages of her yearbook.
Carrying the open book back to the living area he read aloud the handwritten note written on the page.
He looked to her with a raised eyebrow as he continued to read, settling back on the small couch, pulling her down to join him with his free arm.
“It’s been a pissa knowing you since our days at Prescott. Sorry I used to tease you a lot. You’re such a sweet person and I hope we keep in touch. Good luck. Keep up with the drawing. Love, Rich.”
Jim gave her a curious look and set the book down next to him.
“Snoopy? What’s that about?”
On Pam’s face was a knowing smile while a glow came over her cheeks as the memory of her classmate’s nickname for her came back to mind.
“That’s what he called me. Well at least in middle and high school. We’d known each other since elementary. He called me that because I was always doodling little Snoopys in my notebooks. He was always telling me how good they were and how I should enter those art contests from the back of comic books.”
Pam leaned over Jim to pick up the book and flipped to the back inside cover which was covered in doodles of Snoopy and his little bird friend, showing it to Jim.
“So, Roy wasn’t the only one who had a thing for you in school, huh?”
He gave her a little squeeze, drawing her closer to him, suddenly feeling irrationally jealous of this high school friend she knew years ago.
Pam looked at Jim puzzled, “Rich, no we were always just friends.”
“Maybe you were, but Rich had a thing for you. He noticed what you drew in your notebooks, gave you a pet name. He probably only didn’t ask you out because of Roy.”
Pam blushed even though she was sure that wasn’t true.
“I doubt that. We just knew each other for so long. He was always in my classes in elementary and because of our names we always sat next to each other. But he teased me constantly then...and his nicknames for me then weren’t always so nice. I think before Snoopy, he called me Beastly. Before that Fart-girl.”
“Now, I know he liked you. Sounds like he was hung up on you for years.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But Jim did. He knew what it was like to pine for a girl who was with someone else. To have to stand by in the friend role, hoping that one day the girl he teased, played with, encouraged and loved forever would suddenly wake up and see him.”
“Pam, I was a little boy once. I teased everyone, but mostly the girls I liked. I was merciless with Jenna Taylor all through second grade, Playing silly pranks on her and calling her names. It’s what we do until we find the courage to admit we might like a girl. I promise you Pam, he looooved you.”
“By that logic, that would mean you looooove Dwight.”
Jim put on his most serious face and pushed Pam playfully to the other side of the love seat, a fraction of an inch away.
“I guess I can admit it now. I do love Dwight. I just am dating you to be my beard. But since we can’t even tell anyone about us, tomorrow I will profess my love for him, in the office, for all to know. So I guess we don’t need to keep this up. It’s been fun but now it’s over.”
“Fine by me. I’m in love with Kevin anyway.”
Jim pulled her back towards her taking the book back to admire the doodles on the back page. They were really good but really just replicas of Charles M. Shultz’ work. What he really admired were her originals, the sketches she was always drawing and sharing with him of things she saw and visions she dreamed of. He wondered if Rich Beazer ever got to see any of those.
"You know Snoopy, that’s also what we call my niece.”
He flipped back to the page with young Pam and taking one last look at the Jim of her high school years set it down in front of him before getting settled on the couch again, the love seat not ideal for his size but being close to Pam made it cozy and comfortable.
“Not because she draws him, but because she’s always getting into everyone’s business.”
He absentmindedly began to run his fingers through Pam’s hair, wrapping his fingers up in her curls.
“She’s a precocious little girl, always wanting to know everything that is going on. My dad called her out at some family event when she was like 4 because she was trying to listen in on the adult conversation. Watch out for Snoopy over there… my mom cackled…she thinks anything my dad says is hysterical…but my sister-in law laughed too and my brother, who hated that Marcie called her Little Miss Nosy because he was already concerned she’d inherited the Halpert schnoz, was thrilled to revise her nickname to one that did not call attention to her nose.”
Pam readjusted the blanket over her feet as Jim went on.
“So we’ve been calling her that ever since. Of course, now Charlie, my nephew, has been redubbed Charlie Brown for the sole reason that it goes along with hers. But Vanessa loves being called Snoopy.”
“That’s really cute.”
“Vanessa thinks so. Of course, she thinks it’s because she has a thing for the cartoon beagle. I’m not sure if she realizes that she has a thing for Snoopy because of her nickname. That year every present she got for Christmas had Snoopy on it.”
“Good grief,” Pam chanted emulating Charlie Brown as she pointed at the TV.
Jim kissed Pam’s temple, proud of her quick wit.
“That is… a good one… you’re cute too.”
On the TV a grief-stricken Izzy, lay across the bathroom floor in a magenta ball gown, still immobile over losing Denny.
Pam, remembering the episode from earlier in the year, suddenly found herself thinking back to someone else that had become overwhelmed by grief when Ed Truck passed. Jim was still in Stamford at the time and had missed a lot that day.
“Speaking of grief, you heard that Ed Truck died right?”
“Yeah, there was an email that went around about that, why?”
“That was a crazy day you missed. Michael was in rare form. He started out with his regular antics but after he heard about Ed it was all he could talk about and all he wanted us to talk about. He even made us all gather in the conference room to discuss our feelings.”
Pam remembered how much she had wished Jim was there to see her that day. She was on a roll with wisecracks she knew he’d have been proud of, first before they’d heard what happened with Ed when Michael was performing his trick of ducking behind boxes as if retreating down to the warehouse. Just as Jim would have, she forced Michael to perform his staircase trick an additional two times. But it was later during the conference room counseling session that she really pulled out her best work, not however, before Dwight had unintentionally gave them all a laugh.
“Oh, and did you know Dwight was a twin?”
“What are you talking about Beesly? I think I’d know by now if that were true.”
Jim shuttered imagining a clone of the beet-loving, authority-craving, social-skill lacking, egotist he shared a desk pod with.
"No, it is true. He said it himself,” and hearing herself speak she began to wonder if it really was. She knew half the stuff that came out of his mouth was false if not grossly exaggerated. But this was probably a rare case when he spoke the truth.
“In utero, Dwight was twins, but early on he resorbed the other fetus.”
“Ok, sorta makes sense. I expect that kind of behavior from Dwight, even as an embryo. But what does that have to do with Ed Truck’s death.”
“Ok I’m getting to that. So, Michael’s making us talk about people we knew who died…to help us work through our feelings.”
“And that’s who Dwight knew. Of course. He’s such a moron. Tell me, what did he have to say?”
Through a half laugh, she told him, starting to giggle in her adorable way where her words got all jumbled up in her laughter, “Well for one...he’s got the strength of a grown man and a little baby.”
“Dwight, what an idiot.”
Pam began to snicker some more as she told Jim how she volunteered to share, pretending to have an aunt that died in the exact same way as the character in Million Dollar Baby. She went on to tell him how Ryan did the same thing with the Lion King, keeping it just vague enough that Michael foolishly did not catch on since he probably never saw it.
“But then Kevin went and ruined it with the plot of Weekend at Bernie’s, as if Michael wouldn’t have watched that movie a thousand times.”
Jim was laughing too now, picturing Kevin describing the movie in his over-accentuated drawl.
“It got crazier from there Jim, and sadder too. By the day’s end we were holding a funeral for a bird in the parking lot.”
“WAIT, THAT WAS REAL?”
Jim shot up in his seat, nearly propelling Pam from his lap.
“Creed said something about that when Oscar came back and I thought that was Creed being Creed.”
“Nope, that was all true and Jim it was the saddest thing.”
“What the bird funeral?”
“Yes, well not exactly, I mean Michael. After the counseling session I started to see it. The way he was reacting to Ed’s death. Then Toby told him about this bird that died and he really lost it. First, he tried to revive it when it was clearly dead and then he insisted we throw it a funeral. I made a casket from a tissue box and pencils.”
Pam continued as her demeanor changed from humorous mockery to caring and concern.
“Jim, he was spiraling. He was sad about Ed, and how nobody really seemed all that affected by it. There was nobody reacting like Izzy.”
Jim looked again to the TV, once again Izzy was still laying there in shock.
“But I think he was more sad about the bird... like he saw himself as the bird...as if he was all alone and would have no one to grieve for him if he were to die.”
“He told you all this?”
“No, but it was obvious, at least to me. I could see how much he was hurting. So, I gave a eulogy for Michael, as the bird...to try and make him see he wasn’t alone. I said I was sure there were a lot of other birds that cared for him and he would not be forgotten. I think it helped him feel better.”
Jim was sure that Pam was the only one in the office who realized what was going on with him and was the only one who cared enough to do something about it. Jim wasn’t even sure if he would have seen it or if he did if he would care. But that was one of the things he loved about her. No matter how much she joked and pranked, and she could play ball with the best of them, her motherly instincts, good nature and kindness never wavered when someone she cared about was in need. Even if it was Michael Scott.
“I assure you Pam, you were probably the only one who could see what he was going through. You have such a caring heart and a mother’s instinct.”
“You really think so?”
Pam looked up at Jim as if he had just given her the most glowing compliment and for her, he had. Any insecurities Pam had about her job, her intelligence, her talent or almost anything else paled in comparison to her fear of not being good with children and so Jim’s reassurance meant more to her than anything else at that moment.
“I do Pam, I do.”