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Jim. His thoughts. That's all.

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Thing Is (The Laws of Physics)


The thing is, Jim actually thought Stamford could have been okay. He liked being so near the water. Liked taking his sandwich down to the little park by the marina across the street and watching the boats at lunchtime. Liked, if somewhat ironically, having that stupid plastic nameplate on his desk with his new and improved title. He even thought he could like his apartment, which was comfortable and had a really great shower and might be perfect if she lived there too.


The bigger boats especially fascinated him. He’d contemplate how something that heavy could sit atop the water, floating so gracefully. He vaguely remembered how that worked from his college physics class. He’d taken ‘Physics for Poets,’ only to fulfill a natural sciences requirement. It had unexpectedly turned out to be one of his favorite courses. And not just because the teaching assistant had been pretty and distinctly flirtatious with him. He’d found something satisfying in the clear explanations and computations for things that had never made sense before. Why airplanes didn’t drop from the sky, or red objects were…red. Or how things that should have sunk from the force of their own weight somehow managed to remain buoyant.


Thing is, he’d done well in the Stamford office. In fact, he’d just been named one of the top sellers for the second month in a row. It meant more commission for one thing. A new bike, maybe. Another suit. But that wasn’t it. It had been gratifying simply to accomplish something. Even if it was just selling a lot of paper.


When Josh made the announcement at the meeting this morning, his first thought was of her. If she’d been there, she would have smiled at him, maybe winked, in conspiratorial amusement. All the same, he would have seen in her eyes that she was proud of him. The way she’d looked at him at his barbeque, when he rescued Michael by singing that insipid karaoke song with him. Or whenever he’d devised a particularly ingenious plan to harness the Dwightness of Dwight for her entertainment. His second thought was I’m so fucked.


As Josh congratulated him, he’d felt Karen watching him, so he’d looked back at her. She’d nodded, good for you. But her smile had been tight and vaguely annoyed. The trace of softness he sometimes thought he glimpsed in her was easily eclipsed by that edge. And yet, she was smart, funny, there. She had smoky eyes and beautiful skin. She seemed game.


So, alone in bed at night, he’d made himself picture her a few times (instead of his usual visual,) as he eased his anxious loneliness enough to sleep. The thought of her was not ineffective. But when he dreamt, powerless to direct the illusion, it wasn’t Karen he saw moving with him. Not her voice he’d wake up thinking he actually heard sighing in his ear. Karen might take him out of himself for a second. But he knew he’d never be able to melt into her, yet somehow become more whole. Thing is, she wasn’t Pam.


Kevin had called him that morning about their fantasy football game. He’d said that the whole Scranton office was going with Kelly to an ‘Indian holiday thing’ that night. He’d been very excited to report that Michael had handed out copies of the Kama Sutra as background material. Jim had laughed and replied that it sounded like Michael had confused the party with an orgy.


He’d seen the Kama Sutra before; his old roommate Mark had once bought a copy as a joke for his girlfriend and Jim had checked it out. He remembered being alternately amused, turned-on and mystified as he leafed through images of legs, arms…and other parts, tangled in contortion-like postures. He’d been struck by how something so intrinsically perfect in its simplest state had been transformed into something so complex. So counter-intuitive. Since then, he’d become an expert on how one moment, one miscalculation, could render the simplest thing impossibly intricate.


He wondered whether there were any laws of physics that applied to that. Any formulas to determine whether the motion initiated by perhaps just one phone call was going forward or backward. Thing is, he knew there weren’t.


Colette is the author of 37 other stories.
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