Of all the things Jim thought he’d be doing tonight, shooting hoops with the CFO of the company wasn’t one of them.
“So, how’s the transition been for you?” David asked as he passed Jim the ball. “I guess I should say transition back, right? I’m sure you missed Scranton a ton.”
Jim shot a layup. “Yeah, my favorite restaurant in Stamford closed at eleven, and I just wasn’t used to staying out for dinner so late.” David chuckled. Jim silently marveled at how predictable his corporate humor could be and passed the ball back.
“There had to have been something you missed about Scranton, though, even if it wasn’t the nightlife,” David said, shooting the ball and bounce-passing it back to Jim. “Any family in Scranton? Friends?”
Jim shot and missed, the ball bouncing off the rim and careening back towards him. “Some family, yeah. A few friends.”
David looked at him steadily. “Well,” he said finally, “I’m glad you’re back home with them.”
Eventually, the blissful basketball break had to come to an end when David’s wife realized he was missing. No, he definitely couldn’t have predicted this, Jim thought as he walked back inside. But then again, he could never really predict what his day at work might hold, no matter how dull he expected it to be.
Karen messing with him was something else he hadn’t predicted, though, and he adjusted his tie to be looser and looser the more he thought about it. He couldn’t figure out why it bothered him so much. Jim pulled his fair share of pranks—but convincing Dwight that he’d been bitten by a vampire bat in the office was surely different than his girlfriend leading him to believe that she’d dated every guy in the company.
Maybe he just didn’t like being on the receiving end, for once. Maybe he couldn’t take what he dished out. He’d been the butt of a joke before, though, he remembered—when Pam had jinxed him, and he couldn’t talk for the entire afternoon. It had been painful not being able to tell her about Dwight running around with a cup of his own urine, but not as painful as what she’d said in the break room. “You look like you have something really important to say and you just can’t for some reason,” she’d said, wrinkling her nose the way she did when she was teasing him. But she’d laughed so much that day, and he was the reason, so he’d kept his mouth shut. And when he’d opened it back up on Casino Night, she didn’t laugh—not even nervously—and he knew he couldn’t take it.
And there it was again. That pain in his chest that he’d felt since leaving Scranton but also since coming back, the one that only went away in his dreams, but came back even more intensely when he woke up.
It was only around eleven, but as soon as he ended up back in David’s living room, Jim found Karen and told her he wasn’t feeling well.
She was sitting on a loveseat with one of the guys she’d been talking to earlier. Jim couldn’t remember which one it was. He didn’t care.
“You didn’t have any of Michael’s potato salad, did you?” she asked in a voice that was low, but not low enough that the other guy couldn’t hear. Jim glanced across the room and saw Michael standing there—was he wearing one of Dwight’s mustard shirts?—with an aggravated-looking Jan on his arm and a big smile on his face. The guy let out a barking laugh, virile and ugly, and Jim felt something simmer in the pit of his stomach.
“Jim?” Karen said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You okay?
He jumped. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just a headache.”
“Gotcha,” she said, her forehead creasing. “Let’s get out of here, then.”
He nearly ran to the coat closet and promptly crashed into Michael on the way there.
“Hey, Jimbo! Excuse me—James,” Michael said, and Jan, whose hand was closed around Michael’s shirtsleeve, rolled her eyes.
“Sorry,” Jim said. “Are you guys leaving too?”
Michael knit his brow. “Leaving? The party’s just getting started!”
Jim cocked his head. “So, you’re headed to the coat closet?”
“Oh! Oh, that? No, Jan wanted—”
“To grab my coat!” Jan cut in with a falsely bright, lipsticked smile. “It’s cold in here.”
Michael looked at Jan, and then at Jim, then back to Jan, and back to Jim. “Yep,” he said finally. “Cold in here. Colder than the Arc-tic. Actually, the Arc-tic is hot compared to this joint. So Jan thought we should warm up. Together. In the coat closet. Without coats. Without clothes, actually—”
“Oh, Michael, don’t be crass,” Jan snapped. “I just—”
“Right,” Jim interrupted. “Well, you two have a good night, then.” He ducked around the two of them, grabbed his coat and Karen’s, and hurried away.
“Jim!” Michael called after him, and he turned around. “Everything okay?”
Jim paused, and then gave him a thumbs-up. “Golden.”
“Golden! All that glistens, Jimbo. Remember that.”
“I will,” Jim promised. He didn’t know what Michael was talking about, but then again, Michael probably didn’t either.
Jim ducked away and hurried to the door, where he found Karen leaning against the banister. “Good to go?” she asked.
He opened the door and leaned into the burst of cold air that hit his face. “Ready,” he said, and they stepped out into the night.