Once upon a time I listened to a song that briefly and vaguely mentioned an airport bar and suddenly I wanted to write about Jim and Pam in an airport. Very loosely inspired by aspects of the movies The Terminal and Serendipity as well.
As usual, I own nothing.
Up, up, and away!
He had spent the last week at an office supply conference, which is just about as thrilling as it sounds. But the paper company he worked for, Dunder Mifflin, had recently expanded westward and Jim couldn’t deny that it was a good opportunity to be in Denver, networking with potential clients and partners. Why they had to hold the conference in the dead of winter, now that he wasn’t so sure about.
He picked up his step, grateful he didn’t have any bags to check, when he heard his phone chiming. Keeping his pace, he began searching every pocket. The problem with winter weather (which he was no stranger to, living in New York) was the sheer amount of pockets there seemed to be in all the layers he had to wear to keep warm, and for some reason he could never remember which one he put his phone in. Finally, he felt it as he reached into the left inside pocket of his coat. He looked at the screen and smiled, but before he could answer it, he collided with something–no–someone. Papers went flying, just like they did in the movies when two people run into each other, and he couldn’t help but find it just a little bit comical.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” he chuckled, as he bent down and scrambled to help pick up the papers. “I was just running to make my flight and I’m…” He caught a glimpse of the woman he had run into. Auburn hair pulled up into a loose bun, strands falling out, but perfectly so. She wasn’t looking at him, just at the scattered papers. Jim slowed down, looking at her. “I was just in my own head I guess.”
The woman, who looked to be around his age, shook her head, still not looking at him. “It’s fine,” she clipped, obviously frazzled. But even so, there was something about her that made it hard for him to pull his gaze. She was beautiful, no question. But there was something else he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Something that seemed so familiar, though he was sure they had never met before.
She picked up the last of the papers and finally turned to him, hand outstretched. Her eyes were a beautiful shade of green, almost like his own but deeper and it caught him off guard. She really was pretty, even behind the obvious frustration on her face. The woman sighed and stretched out her hand further.
“Can I…have those?” she asked him, gesturing toward his hands.
He looked at the papers in his hands and quickly shook his head, remembering what he was doing. He handed the stack to her. “Oh, yes! Sorry. And, sorry for…” he gestured wildly to the general area surrounding them. “...that. What just happened.”
“Just…watch where you’re going next time,” she said with a shrug, her initial irritation loosening, softening the furrow of her brow. He thought he saw the corner of her mouth tug upward, but she turned away too quickly to be sure, scurrying off to wherever she was headed before he accidentally took her out like a linebacker. Tearing his eyes away from her when he remembered he had a flight to catch, he caught sight of one stray piece of paper they had missed on the ground. He picked it up and examined it. It was a drawing of a couple, each of them with a baby in their arms. They were looking at each other, and even though it was a loose sketch, you could see the admiration and love they had for each other. Jim wondered if this woman he had just run into had drawn it herself. Maybe the woman in the drawing was actually supposed to be her, and that was her husband and her babies she was rushing to get back to. Subconsciously, he hoped it wasn’t the latter, which was absurd because he didn’t even know this woman and would likely never see her again in his life. But still, he told himself that she had to have been the one that drew it.
He checked his watch, cursed again, and took off running. He was definitely missing his flight now.
Finding a bench to sit on, Pam straightened the papers in her hands. They weren't really all that important, just some sketches she had done on her trip. Mountain landscapes, strangers at local cafes, and a lot of Michael, Holly, and their new twins. Michael was the first boss she ever had back in Scranton. He had started his own business and was in desperate need for sales help. Pam was also desperate for a job, so she accepted. Michael turned out to be a pretty incompetent boss, Pam admitted to herself that she wasn't cut out for sales, and the company ended up going under. But somehow, despite Michael's general idiocy, Pam grew to love him. They remained friends after their failed start-up and got even closer when she introduced him to the HR representative at her new office, Holly. The two of them hit it off quickly and got married within the year.
That's what had brought her to Colorado. Michael and Holly moved back to help Holly's parents right after they got engaged. Holly got pregnant almost immediately after they moved, and after she gave birth to their twins, Pam just had to visit them. Especially since Michael and Holly named one of them Morgan—Pam's middle name.
She had a lovely time with them, but this whole day definitely could have gone better. She slept through her alarm, left her phone charger at Michael’s house, got stuck in a giant traffic jam on the way to the airport, finally arrived, only to find out her flight had been delayed due to weather. And not just a little delayed. Six hours delayed. And then to top it all off, some guy ran right into her, knocking her notebook out of her hands, sending all the loose sketches in it fluttering around them. And then he laughed.
The laughing should have made her mad. To be truthful, she was pretty frustrated. But there was something in his soft chuckle as he scrambled to help her that eased the frustration a little. When she finally looked at him, she was caught off guard by his looks. Hair perfectly tousled and a warm smile tugging at the corner of his lips. And he was tall. Somehow, he was able to seem genuinely remorseful while also remaining lighthearted and playful about nearly knocking her flat in the middle of the airport.
But things hadn’t gone her way that morning (or the afternoon) and she felt like she needed to let her frustration out on something tangible. So even though he was charming, and kind, and helped her immediately, she huffed and told him to be more careful before rushing off, instantly regretting not just thanking him for helping her. Or telling him it was actually fine. Or, you know, smiling.
She tucked her notebook in her bag and sighed. Something felt off today, and not just because of all the things that had gone wrong. She felt a little empty, which was weird for having just spent the last three days hanging out with her dear friends and holding cute babies and getting a break from the mundane aspects of her life back home. She should feel restored, not depleted.
Maybe it was seeing how genuinely happy Michael and Holly were. They were building this life together and despite drowning in diapers and getting what must feel like mere minutes of sleep, they were glowing—blissful, even. And while that made Pam so grateful to see her friends that way, it made her realize how much she didn’t feel that way about her life right now. She wasn’t unhappy with her life. She had a lot to be grateful for and it could always be worse. But things had begun to feel stagnant—unremarkable, really. She was known to thrive in the comfort of familiarity. But now there was the nagging urge to change something. She wanted to glow too.
Three minutes. He missed his flight by three minutes. He practically begged the woman at the gate to let him board but she was an iron wall, unable to be budged, persuaded , or charmed into letting him on that plane. Running his hand over his face, he turned around toward the desk to see what other options he had for getting home.
“We do have one more flight headed to New York tonight,” the man at the desk relayed to him. “There’s one stop, but you wouldn’t have to de-plane, as it’s continuing onto JFK.”
“Okay,” he said, lacking enthusiasm. “I guess let’s book that one.”
The man clacked away at the keyboard. “Also,” he continued, not taking his eyes from the screen. “Your flight doesn’t leave for several hours. I hope that’s not a problem.”
Jim sighed. “Nope, not a problem.”
“Great.” The man grabbed the boarding pass that had just printed and handed it to Jim. “Try not to miss this one, huh?”
Jim gave him a smile that was laced with perhaps a little too much sarcasm, and headed toward the nearest bar. He had plenty of time to kill. A couple beers couldn’t hurt. He walked into the nearest one he could find, a place called Spirit in the Sky, and sat down on a corner stool at the bar before ordering a beer. He put his face in his hands, suddenly feeling exhausted. The thought of having to spend the next—he looked at his watch—five hours in an airport didn’t help.
He heard the stool two seats down scrape against the tile and lifted his eyes that direction, sitting a little straighter. It was her. It was the girl he had accidentally plowed over earlier.
She didn’t seem to notice him, or perhaps she didn’t even remember who he was. It was a brief interaction and she was obviously flustered, so he couldn’t blame her if that was the case. He, however, would probably always remember her face. She had such a simple beauty that made it hard to forget. He traced the rim of his glass with his middle finger, looking at her in his periphery, and debated whether or not to attempt talking to her.
He cleared his throat. "We uh, keep running into each other," he started. She turned to look at him and he saw the slight recognition in her eyes. "Thankfully it's a little less literal this time," he chuckled carefully.
Much to his relief, she smiled. And it wasn't one of those fake, "please stop talking to me" pity smiles, either. It was soft, and genuine, and made him lose his train of thought.
"Yes, and this time is a little less painful."
Jim gave a playful wince and peeked at her through one eye. "I really am so sorry. I feel terrible."
Pam waved her hand as if she was batting away the words he just said. "It's okay, really. I actually am sorry for how mean I was about it."
"I didn't think you were mean," he said quickly. "Maybe frustrated, but that's to be expected."
"It's just been…a long day so far." She set her drink down and stuck her hand out. "I'm Pam," she said with a smile.
He wiped his hand on his jeans (why was he sweating so much?!) and took hers. "Jim."
"So, Jim." He really liked hearing his name on her tongue. "Where are you headed, and so quickly?"
He popped a pretzel in his mouth and smiled, grateful she was joking about it. "I'm going back home to New York. I was in Denver for work. But unfortunately, missed my flight."
"Ah, I see. Mine got delayed," she said with a shrug.
"And where are you headed?"
"I'm from Pennsylvania."
Jim sat up straighter. "Hey, me too! What part?"
"I thought you said…"
"I live in New York but I grew up in Scranton."
She slammed her hand on the bar with a giant grin. "Shut up! That's where I'm from!!"
He turned toward her and threw his hands up in disbelief. "You're joking! What high school did you go to?"
He pointed toward himself. "West Scranton!"
She shook her head a little, still smiling. "Of all the gin joints."
"Small world," he laughed.
They continued talking about Scranton and offering up places they may have crossed paths without even knowing. Then Jim could feel the conversation slowing and tapering. He wasn't ready to be done talking to her. They had only just met, but for whatever reason he felt the need to know everything about her—to see places she's been, pets she's had, figure out pet peeves and favorite ice cream flavors. So he said the first thing that came to his mind.
"I have a question for you. How many words per minute does the average person type?"
She smirked, and he convinced himself that he saw relief in her face—that she was happy he kept the conversation going. "I type 90," she shrugged.
He scoffed. "Shut up. Mavis Beacon doesn't even type 90."
She giggled and all he wanted was to figure out how to keep that sound ringing in his ears. "It's true!" she protested.
"Okay, I said average."
"Seventy? How many do you type?"
"Forget it." He couldn't wipe the smile from his face. Being with her, this essential stranger, felt so comfortable. "I was just going to brag. Forget it."
She bit her bottom lip as a snicker escaped and it sent a current through him. "Come on, tell me!"
"You have to tell me now." She gave him an exaggerated pout.
Jim sighed and put his hand over his eyes. "Sixty-five." Her snickering got louder, causing him to chuckle as well. "Okay, no need to laugh."
She feigned seriousness. "No, that's…respectable."
Easily, an hour passed as they talked. The topics of conversation were mostly surface-level, but Jim couldn't help but notice that they were sitting closer to each other than they were an hour ago and he tried to internally deny how many times he had to stop himself from touching her leg or her hand involuntarily.
"So, when's your flight?" he finally asked her.
Pam checked her watch and rolled her eyes. "Not for another…three hours."
"Well, the flight I was able to switch to doesn't leave for about four more hours. So it seems like we both have some time to kill."
She smiled. "So it seems."
"You free for dinner tonight?" He cringed. That sounded way more forward than he meant it to. "I just mean…we'll both be here a while and I hear the airport McDonald's here has like two Michelin stars…and," he glanced up at her. "I wouldn't mind the company. Airports kind of suck."
"Two Michelin stars, huh?"
"Oh yeah, tons of awards. Their McDouble is as fine as fine dining gets."
"In that case," she said. "I'd be a fool to turn that offer down."
He felt his shoulders relax and he stood up. "Okay then. Let's see what the Denver International Airport has to offer."
His phone rang in his pocket, but he ignored it. He watched as Pam gathered her things. Whatever it was, it could wait.