Pam Beesly looked down at her phone again, her eyebrows knitted together in confusion. It was the right address, or should be the location of the right address anyway. But this didn't look like the guitar shop that she was looking for. Or at least the one Pam thought she was looking for. She stood shivering in the bitter London cold, looking at the chipped red paint of the closed door to the building, wondering if she should go inside. The guitar shops that she'd been to back home in Scranton with her sister were bright and airy, with big glass windows and air conditioning and sales staff practically pulling unsuspecting buyers off of the street with their smiles and shiny hair. And this place was anything but.
Pam pulled her red chunky knit scarf higher around her face to keep out the cold, and looked around. Every shop on Denmark Street seemed to be a guitar shop, or some sort of music shop. She could see into some of the windows on the second and third floors of the tall Dickensian looking buildings on the opposite side of the street, and there seemed to be even more guitar shops up there. She pulled her shoulders up around her ears as if that would help her stay warmer and looked down at her phone again. The message from Penny confirmed that this was the right address. She took a step backwards to take a photo of the building, but bumped into someone who was quickly walking down the street.
"Fucking watch it mate," said the gruff voice from the man that Pam had bumped in to. He carried on walking without so much as a glance back at Pam.
"Sorry," Pam called quietly, not wanting to cause another confrontation. She repositioned her phone, looked around to make sure that she wasn't in anyone's way, and then took a picture to send to her sister. She sent the photo first, and then typed out a message.
Penny, is this definitely the right place? It looks like an office or apartment building or something
Pam waited a few moments, staring at her phone, but the message didn't deliver. She chewed her lip and looked around again, before returning to the phone screen, where WhatsApp was still just showing one tick against the messages. She locked her phone screen, and slipped the device into her pocket, before reaching up to press the third button, labelled DM Guitars. The buzzer sounded, along with some screeching that made Pam wince slightly, and then the chipped red painted door popped open. She pushed the door open and looked at the dingy foyer in front of her. If it could be called a foyer. A small square of worn green carpet led on the left to yet another guitar shop, and straight ahead to a steep flight of stairs. Pam took a step forward, a stale and slightly damp smell hitting her as the door closed behind her. She glanced into the guitar shop to the left, with Vance Music printed on the window panel of the door, and then to the stairs with their green carpet in front of her. The white walls, with their bumpy paint, looked grimy and sticky to the touch, as did the black gloss painted bannister that was stuck to one of the walls. Pam made her way up the steep, narrow stairs slowly, careful not to touch the walls on either side of her. By the time she reached the third floor, she was panting slightly.
She looked around at the various flyers stuck to a pinboard on the wall. Brightly coloured pieces of paper offering banjo lessons, a Thursday knitting circle, a pretentious sounding book club and an improv class all jostled for attention. Pam looked at them all in turn, and before she knew what she was doing, found herself reaching for the phone number of the book club and tore off the small strip of paper. She stuffed it into her coat pocket and turned towards the slightly ajar door, its grimy looking white gloss paint matching the stairway that she'd just ascended. Rather than touch the tarnished doorknob, Pam pushed the door with her foot, causing a tinny sounding bell to ring above her, and tentatively stepped inside.
The small shop seemed completely empty, other than for the hundreds of guitars that were stacked double high on shelves against every wall, all leaning the same way towards the wooden counter at the other end of the room. Pam looked around at the many, many Fenders, Gibsons, Ibanez's and the rest, overwhelmed by the number of guitars that were crowded into such a small space. She noticed one wooden chair in the corner as she squeezed past the small wooden island in the centre of the shop.
"Hello?" she called out after a few moments standing in front of the till. Pam looked around self consciously as she shifted from foot to foot. She leaned over the wooden counter to try to peer into an open door that Pam assumed led to a back room. "Hello?" she tried again.
"I'm here, I'm here, I'm here," a man called as he ran through the doorway.
"Uh, hi, um, I'm here about the C. F. Martin guitar?" Pam said.
"Oh yesh," he said. "You must be Penny Farthing," he laughed.
"Penny Farthing?" Pam questioned.
"You know? Like the coins? The bike?" he said, confused at how Pam wasn't understanding his joke.
"Oh hey, you're American! Snap! That explains why you don't know what I'm talking about," he said excitedly.
"Uh, yeah," Pam replied, pulling her purse higher up on her shoulder, hugging it almost as if it were a security blanket.
"I'm from Pennsylvania, how about you?"
Pam hesitated, not really wanting to share personal details about herself with a total stranger. But she looked at his waiting face, with its simple smile plastered over it and felt herself giving in slightly. "Um, same actually," Pam said with a nod.
"Get out!" the man exclaimed. "Penny from Pennsylvania! Who'da thunk it?"
"Oh no, I'm not Penny. That's my sister. I'm Pam," she said before she realised what she was saying.
"Pamalamadingdong! Michael Scott," he shouted, holding his hand out. "The pleasure's all yours."
Pam cautiously went to shake his hand, and with good reason, because as she gripped his outstretched hand, an intense buzz shot through her. "Oww!" she yelped, pulling her hand back.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry," Michael said, pulling something out from his sleeve. "Forgot that was up there. Practising for my magic show later." He pulled a silk scarf from his pocket that kept on going.
"So, uh, do you think I could get the guitar?" Pam asked as Michael continued pulling out the long line of silk scarves. He seemingly hadn't heard, or didn't want to stop his ‘show', so instead just gave her a huge smile with raised eyebrows and continued pulling. Pam pursed her lips and continued watching, with little choice, but the sound of the bell above the door dinging caused her to jump and turn round.
A tall guy, wearing a black baseball cap and a black disposable mask shuffled in. He mumbled something and raised his hand in greeting to Michael, before he walked to the back wall and began looking at the guitars on the top shelf.
"Hi Duncan," Michael called out, his eyes still trained on Pam, his smile almost Cheshire Cat like, as he carried on pulling the scarves out.
"Hey," a quiet, transatlantic voice called back.
Pam shrugged it off and turned back around to face Michael, hoping that this magic trick would be over soon. "Could I get the guitar?" she tried again.
"Patience young one, have you must. Getting your guitar in a minute I will be," he said to her in a terrible Yoda voice. Finally he ran out of scarves and held out his hands out ‘jazz hand' style while he waited for an applause from Pam that didn't come. "Alright, fine," he huffed. "I'll be back in a second.
"Thank you," Pam tightly smiled. As Michael shuffled off to the back room, Pam gripped the strap of her purse on her shoulder and turned around, looking at all the guitars on the shelves. She heard the sound of a guitar being plucked, and looked towards the back of the shop to see the man that had walked in moments ago, sitting down on the lone chair, strumming a guitar that was resting on his bent knee. He'd removed his mask and baseball cap, and Pam could only see the top of his head as he looked down at the instrument. She noticed how his messy hair fell about his forehead, while the hair behind his ears was curling out slightly. She watched him, slightly mesmerised, as he effortlessly fingered the strings, until he looked up, straight at her.
Pam immediately turned around to face the counter, mortified that she'd been caught staring at some guy. She hugged her purse tighter as she listened to him playing, but remained perfectly still, looking straight ahead. He started to sing softly, and immediately Pam felt as if she were being hugged from behind, enveloped in honey, a warmth radiating through her. She looked up at the ceiling and pursed her lips as if trying not to let the smile sweep across her face that was so desperate to escape. She took a deep breath, and chanced a quick look back behind her, and saw the guy staring straight at her. He flashed her a small lopsided grin, one cheek tugging at the corner of his mouth. Pam immediately flushed pink, and the guy dropped his gaze back down to the floor as he continued playing and humming softly.
"Alrighty, here we go," Michael said as he heaved the guitar onto the counter. "1954, C.F. Martin 00-18 Flat Top acoustic guitar, and in pretty good condition. So, cash or credit card?"
"Uh, do you take American Express?" Pam asked as she looked through her purse.
"Wish I could, really wish I could. But nope," Michael said sadly.
"Mastercard?" she asked, holding out a credit card.
"Ah, your flexible friend?" he laughed, taking the card from Pam, who just looked confused and so Michael began rambling at her. "The old advert? It was a huge hit. Oh, but maybe you weren't born yet, or maybe you were but not here yet. I mean not here like in the shop, but in London, Well let's see, what year is it now?"
Pam knew Michael was talking, but she'd tuned out when he mentioned that she probably wasn't even alive yet. Instead, she was focusing on the sounds coming from behind her. She was desperate to turn around, to just stare at this complete stranger play his guitar and listen to his voice. But she held it together and pulled her focus back to Michael. He was still rambling about adverts from the 1990s, and she was sure she'd heard the word Bisto in there somewhere, but had no idea what it meant. Finally Pam was able to put in her PIN, before Michael made a whirring and beeping noise as the machine worked and then tore off the receipt.
"There you go. You're now the proud owner of a very old guitar," Michael said proudly as he tucked the guitar into its case, closed and locked the lid, and held it out to Pam.
"Thanks," she said with a small smile. She took the handle of the guitar case and pulled it off of the counter, surprised at the weight of the instrument that she'd have to somehow get home on the bus. She turned and headed to the door, her gaze still drawn to the man in the back corner of the shop. As she passed him, he looked up and gave her that same lopsided grin as he had done minutes before. She couldn't help but give him a shy smile of her own, her cheeks colouring pink. She swallowed down a lump in her throat and fumbled for the doorknob.
"Here, let me," the guy said, standing. He learned the guitar against his chair and walked over to grab the door for Pam, seemingly not worried about how dirty looking the brass knob was.
"Thanks," she smiled, almost with a whisper. She tucked a loose curl behind her ear and ducked her head down slightly, biting the inside of her cheek to try to stop her smile growing wider. She looked up again, and locked eyes with the stranger. After what seemed like hours, but was more like 27 seconds, Pam finally tore her gaze away. "I should, um, get going," she said, immediately regretting her life choice not to live in this dingy shop, or sit and listen to him play 24/7 as if she had nothing else to do in her life.
He gave her another smile as he pulled the door wider and leaned against it, watching her walk down the stairs, carefully balancing in the middle of the staircase and making sure not to touch the walls. Pam couldn't help herself as she paused and turned her head slightly to see the stranger still staring at her. She flushed pink again, smiled, and then turned to continue her journey out of the tall building.
Back out in the cold, Pam wasn't sure what to think. She turned back to face the red door and contemplated going back inside. She bit her lip, shifted the heavy guitar case to her other hand and held her left hand against the DM Guitars button on the buzzer. What would I even say to him? Pam thought to herself. Hey Dylan, wanna go get a drink? Was it Dylan? Deacon? Duncan! It was Duncan. Ok, so Duncan, wanna grab a drink? No. You don't ask guys out. Not that they ask you out either. But, he's obviously not going to say yes, and then that's just all kinds of embarrassing and do you really want that? Just, let's just leave it.
"Excuse me," a woman said, as she pretty much pushed past Pam to reach the buzzer, startling Pam from her trance.
"Sorry," Pam mumbled as she took a step to the side. She watched the woman wait for the buzz and then push the heavy door open. Pam lunged forward to stop the door from closing, putting her foot in the way. She stared at the large brass knob in the centre of the door, before sighing and slowly pulling her foot back and allowing the door to close. She pursed her lips to the side and sniffed slightly before turning back to the street, shaking the stranger out of her mind.
She looked right, as she'd been training herself to do over the last few weeks, and began to cross the road, before she stopped herself and looked the other way, realising it was a one way street. She let a black cab pass, before quickly skipping over the road to the other side. She passed Flat Iron, gazing into the darkly lit restaurant, before letting her eyes flit down to the ground to see the dirty looking sign for The Ally Cat Club and its wrought iron steps disappearing downwards into a black hole beneath the street. Finally, at the end of the road, Pam reached the glass and black metal door of Fernandez & Wells, the independent coffee shop she'd passed on the way down the street, and pushed it open with her shoulder, carefully sliding the guitar case in front of her. She approached the cash register and placed her order for a chai tea. She thanked the woman behind the till, and turned around to head towards the end of the counter, and ran smack into a body. She looked up slowly and realised it was a man. The same man that she'd met upstairs. The same man that she hadn't stopped thinking about since she'd heard him softly singing and strumming his guitar. She locked eyes with him beneath his baseball cap that was pulled down low.
"Um, uh, sorry," she quietly said, quickly looking down at the floor.
"No worries," came his muffled reply through his black mask.
Pam looked back up at him and thought she saw a smile. "I'll, um, I'll just," she pointed to the left as if to motion that she'd get out of his way.
"Thanks," he said, before walking up to the cash register.
After a few minutes, the guy came to stand next to Pam as he waited for his drink to be prepared. She held her breath slightly, feeling like her right arm was burning by being in such close proximity to him, even if the fabric of her jacket was barely touching his. They stood in silence, as Pam chewed the side of her bottom lip and wondered what to say to him.
"So, what guitar did you get?" he asked, leaning his head slightly towards her.
"Oh, um, it's a," Pam began, but was interrupted by her name being called. "Oh, uh, that's mine." She took a few steps to the counter and picked up the small white paper cup with its black plastic lid. She quickly put it down again when she realised it was so hot, and grabbed a brown cardboard sleeve. She put the guitar on the floor next to her so that she could slip the sleeve onto the cup, and carefully picked both back up. Just as she turned around, she suddenly wondered what she should do. The guy was clearly only making conversation while they waited for their drinks, and now she had hers, what should she do? Should she just smile and walk out of the coffee shop? Or should she go back over and tell him what guitar she'd bought like he'd asked? She took a deep breath and walked back over.
"So what was it?" he asked, before Pam even had the chance to work out what she was going to do.
Pam was just about to answer, when she was interrupted again.
"Jim!" the barista shouted, causing Pam to jump a little. "Flat white for Jim!"
The guy Pam was talking to raised his eyebrows under his cap and stepped forward to claim the drink. He slipped a sleeve onto his cup and turned back towards Pam. "Sorry," he said as he returned to her, a slightly confused expression on her face. "Do you want to maybe walk and drink and you can tell me about your guitar?" he asked through his mask.
Pam didn't need to be asked twice. "Absolutely I do," she replied with a bright smile.