I can't sleep. It's been three days of no sleep.
I cannot sleep, and I cannot dream. When I finally can sleep, it's always the same nightmare. The one I haven't had for years. She's standing there, my beautiful, amazing wife. This angel, just standing looking at me, with this smile on her face, which I know is the secret smile that she keeps just for me. But in the dream, the nightmare, that smile isn't for me. It's for Roy.
It's always the same. We're on a boat. We're in the office, by my desk. We're in the parking lot. She's looking at me with that smile at her lips, but her arms are around his neck. And then I'm alone. Just standing in the darkness, but I hear her whisper "I miss you."
I miss you.
Those three words haunt my dreams every night, but their echo haunts my every waking moment. It's the voice inside my head. And I miss her too. So much, I really do. And it's only been three days. But I'm doing this, this whole crazy big ‘set up a new company' thing to make a better life for us. For our family. And it sucks so much in the present, but I know the future is going to be amazing. When I can give her everything she's ever dreamed of.
She's given me herself, and our two beautiful children. It's more than I ever thought possible, more than I ever dreamed. And I don't feel I can ever give her enough to show how much I love her, how she's made me complete. And right now, I just feel like I'm failing. I'm failing at being there for my family, I'm failing at providing for them, I'm failing at being a father and a husband.
But I can't tell her this. I can't tell her that I want to throw away all our savings and leave this new job before I've even really begun it. But I miss her. I miss them. It's been three days since I walked in the door after a day at the office, only to have Cece fling herself into my arms. It's been three days since I watched Phillip stumble around the living room now that he's learnt to walk. It's been three days since I woke up with Pam's head on my chest. All I have now is quick phone calls, and they all end the same way. That they all love me and they miss me.
I miss you.
I'm in this constant state of flux. I want to call her all the time, I want to find out what I've missed and how things are going. But at the same time, I don't want to remind her I'm not there, that I'm missing everything, that I'm currently letting her down.
I was having this very indecision to call her, my head in my hands, fingers raking their way through my hair, when my phone rang.
"Hey," I said, with an edge of nervousness to my voice, as I picked up.
"Hey, how's it going?" she asked.
"It's tough, but I'm really hoping I'll be out of here by 9pm."
"Jim, it's Christmas Eve, I thought you'd be home in time to put out cookies and milk for Santa with Cece," she said. I could hear the disappointment in her voice and it broke my heart.
"I know, I know, I'm so sorry. I'm trying my hardest. You know I want to be there, I'm just trying to wrap up this investor."
"I just don't want you to miss everything," she said, her voice tinged with tears. "We miss you. I miss you."
I miss you.
"I know, I miss you so much, you have no idea," I said, hanging my head in my hands and rubbing my eyes. "I've gotta go but I'll be home as soon as possible, I promise. I love you."
"Love you too," she said, before the line went dead.
I hung up the phone, giving myself a moment before returning to the mountain of work to finish before I would finally be able to get home. It's times like this, I need to remember why I'm missing all these moments in our little family's life. I want to give them more than my parents' old house. I want Pam to finally follow her dreams instead of working in our crappy office. But I have to sacrifice the now for the future. I just wish I could be there.
I miss you.
The next time I looked up at the clock it was 9.45pm. Shit. There was no way I'd be able to get home in time. I knew she'd be so angry and disappointed in me, not to mention just plain upset. I couldn't believe I'd done this.
After checking the bus timetable, and finding a bus that would leave at 5.30am, which would get me to Scranton just after 11am, I finally worked up the courage to call her and tell her the news.
"Hey," I almost whispered as she picked up.
"Hey," she croaked, clearly I'd woken her from dozing on the sofa. "Where are you?"
"I'm so sorry," I sighed, closing my eyes. "I'm still here, I'm so, so sorry. But I've found a bus that'll get me home in the morning. I'm so sorry Pam."
Silence fills the line.
"Yeah," she choked out, clearly holding back tears.
"Pam, I'm so sorry. I'll make this up to you, I promise."
"Mmhmm," came her muffled reply. "I think I hear Cece, I've gotta go."
"I love y...," I tried to say as I heard the line go dead. All I could do was hang my head down on the desk. I wish I was home, so I could stop this pain tonight.
I miss you.
I trudged home to this little empty apartment that I've just started renting, and I couldn't stop thinking about how this is the worst Christmas Eve that I've ever had. Last year was the best. Our little family was finally complete. The four of us, just together alone. The kids were too young to know what was going on, but to us it was perfect. And now this year I've fucked everything up.
For the fourth night in a row, I couldn't sleep, too scared that if I closed my eyes, the nightmare would come back. I lay watching a spider in its web in the corner of the little room, catching things and eating their insides. Is it meant to be a metaphor? This whole distance from my family thing is eating me up from the inside for sure. Maybe I'm just overthinking it all. Maybe I'm just really fucking sleep deprived. Maybe I just need to see my wife.
I miss you.
Between getting home from the office late, tossing and turning, watching that damn spider and then getting up at 4.30am, I think I managed a solid 45 minutes of sleep. I made it to the bus in time, thank god, and promptly fell asleep as soon as the bus pulled out of the station. It could have been the exhaustion, but I think it was the fact I was finally going home after four long days away from my family.
I miss you.
I took a cab from the bus station to our house, and as I opened the door, my jaw just dropped. I was expecting our usual Christmas decorations, what I'd left hanging on the walls at 5am just four days ago. But instead, it was as if Halloween had thrown up inside of the Halpert family home.
"Hello?" I called out to the seemingly empty and silent house. "Hello?" I repeated.
"Hello there!" Pam's shout came from upstairs. "We'll be down in a second."
I wandered around the Halloween decorated living room looking at the fake cobwebs, feeling my stomach tighten as I thought about the one I'd stared at the previous night. I shook it out of my mind. I'm with my family, I don't want to be thinking about Philadelphia and Athlead and being so far from the loves of my life, when I'm finally here with them.
"We've missed you!" I heard the voice inside my head say out loud.
I turned around to see my little family all dressed up. Pam was grinning at me from beneath a red wig, Cece had a sheet over her head and it looked like Phillip was wearing some sort of a sack.
"Uh what's going on?" I asked, as the sheet hurtled towards me and flung itself at my legs. I laughed, picking my little girl up.
"Well, we've kind of been watching Nightmare Before Christmas non-stop over the last few days, so Cece and I thought it might be fun to have Halloween at Christmas. Plus, we kind of skipped over Halloween this year, because, well, you know," Pam explained, flushing slightly.
I sheepishly nodded my head and looked down at my feet. I did know. After I'd invested pretty much all of our savings into Athlead that day, we'd left the Halloween party and gone home to argue about it. So we didn't really do anything for Halloween, neither of us being in the best mood.
"And I know, I know, you hate dressing up," she continued, "so if you don't want to, it's ok. We're just really happy to have you home. We've missed you."
The lump in my throat couldn't get any bigger. Of course I was going to dress up with them. How could I not? How could I say no to anything the most important people in my life wanted? I couldn't. I didn't want to.
"I'll be right back," I said as I grabbed the Jack Skellington costume from the sofa. I gave Pam the kiss I'd longed to give her for four days, before going upstairs to change. I smiled as I walked up the stairs, looking at the photographs on the wall that I'd missed. Breathing in the scent of baby lotion and Pam's perfume, with just a hint of a full diaper pail, I knew I was home. When I tried to leave the other day at the Christmas party, I only lasted 45 minutes before I turned around and came back. This time it was four days and I've been losing my mind. What's it going to be like when I have to be gone for even longer without seeing them? Without being in our home? How am I going to do it? Can I do it?
Dressed in my striped suit, I walked downstairs and into the living room to hear the sounds of ‘This is Halloween' coming from the TV. My Sally was sitting on the sofa with a miniature Oogie Boogie in her arms and Zero lay on the floor looking up at the TV. My heart finally felt whole again. I joined my amazing family, sliding my arms around Pam's shoulder before Cece came to sit on my lap.
As Jack began his lament, I listened to his words. Year after year, it's the same routine. I have grown so tired of the same old thing. There's something out there, far from my home, a longing that I've never known. There's an empty place in my bones, that calls out for something unknown. Was Jack speaking to me? Am I the Pumpkin King? I've certainly grown tired of Dunder Mifflin. I want to do more with my life than just sell paper. I want to be challenged, I want to be excited, I want to be proud of myself. I want Pam to be proud of me. I want to show her I can be more than goofy Jim. I want to be the man my wife needs, the father my children need. I want to be the best I can possibly be. For them.
Feeling the happiest I'd felt in four days, I felt my eyes grow heavy and drift shut as the movie continued playing. For the first time in four days, I finally had a dream. My angel, my dearest friend, was there by my side, gazing up at the stars with me. Just sitting and staring.
Music filled my ears once again and I slowly opened my eyes to see my own Sally watching me with that secret smile on her face. I reached out my hand to softly stroke hers.
"I'm so glad you're here," she whispered to me. "I missed you so much."
I miss you.
"I know, I missed you more than you can ever know," I replied, leaning down to kiss her hand.
I only have a few days before I'll need to leave her, our family and this house again. I don't know how I'll be able to cope being away from her for days or weeks at a time, but I know it'll be worth it in the end. It has to be. Because she's my angel, she's the voice inside my head. It's always been Pam, and it always will be. For it is plain as anyone can see, we're simply meant to be.