Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Try as he did to not think of her now, it was futile to push thoughts of her out of his head, even had her beautiful face not been staring up at him from within the pages of the book. Over and over, he chastised himself for being a fool to be concerned with her.
Her life was her own.
It was not tied to his and never was.
Her problems were not his to fix.
Still, he couldn’t stop worrying about what she was going to do and how devastated she had sounded when they talked Friday and how much it pained him to hear her that way.
That alone wasn’t the reason he couldn’t sleep at night even if it was the foremost in his mind. There was also the confusion about what she meant that he was on his way to marriage. He replayed that over in his mind nightly finding no reasonable explanation for her comment.
There was also guilt over Karen’s feelings for him that while he couldn’t reciprocate, didn’t keep him from flirting and joining her for a drink that led him back to her place and into her bedroom. For her it was the start of something, for him it was just a way to numb him from everything he’d learned that day.
He’d gone long enough without a romantic connection both mentally and physically and while she’d never be Pam, she could be just the thing to help him rebound. He knew he could continue to let her be his antiseptic, let her temporarily block the pain for as long as they were both employed in the same town but did he want to be that guy? A who made promises with his body he had no intention of keeping.
He carried stress about his own job security, responsibility to himself to think of his own career, and uncertainty as to what was unscrupulous versus simple self-preservation.
The uncertainty compounded his indecision about what to do about his boss, who he knew had crossed a huge ethical line. But complicating things was his promise to Matthew and of course the residual heartache that the months hadn’t done much to make go away and new pain that she was out there dating again and it still wasn’t him.
His burden and sleep deprivation finally caught up to him as he sat staring at photos, the images blurring his tired eyes making them heavy and wet, while his mind drowned in the memories the photos evoked.
He closed his eyes to bring up one more, the memory of his lips on hers, them alone in the dark office, only to feel her hands slip from his again before the plunk of his head on the conference room table jerked him awake for a brief moment before the whole backdrop of the conference room morphed to the bar and Pam became Michael.
While fast asleep in the conference room with a picture book under his head, the rest of the office made leave for the day as Jim travelled back to where he left his heart, Scranton.
Waking what felt like hours later, the book was still open to the page that at its top read Pam Beesly, Receptionist with a Heart of Gold. Its edge was moist from where his sweaty brow lay atop it. He raised up his heavy head and the book stayed stuck to him momentarily before slowly peeling away and landing back on the table.
From the pages below the subhead seemed to whisper to him.
Sweet as the jelly beans she keeps on her desk to keep us energized. Nobody answers the phone quite like her.
Her beautiful green eyes stared back at him from photos taken long before he knew her. Eyes he’d know anywhere as they were burned into his soul.
In one, a curly headed moppet played with a toy phone, the expressive emerald irises revealing her joyful spirit. In another, a tiny glimpse of her pink tongue stuck out from behind her toothy grin as she held out a handful of jelly beans while on the lap of an oversized bunny.
One had a middle schooler with a proud smile, holding up a canvas, a watercolor painting of the Historic Scranton Iron Furnaces with a small blue ribbon attached. Just below it was another shot in which Pam was a vision in pink, a corsage on her wrist, a satin gown clinging to her curves. Jim knew just out of frame was Roy, her ex and he hated to think of that goon with her on prom night and what they likely did later that evening. What he himself had planned with Julie Simonson for the night of his own prom unable to get the nerve to do anything more than deep kissing and a bit of heavy petting at the end of the event.
There was also the cap and gown graduation shot and the one with her working behind the counter at Carvel.
The one with her holding up the “First Day at Dunder Mifflin” cardboard frame around her head while posed in front of the Scranton Business Park sign was pretty much the same as the one he had, only it had her optimistic smile instead of his hesitant grimace.
Aside from Kelly’s and strange enough, Creed’s, hers by far had the most photos from her childhood years, photos taken by her mother or father and shared with Michael to create this book. Jim wondered how he got it done so fast since only about week had passed since the news of Scranton’s fate seemed to come to light. He didn’t know Michael had been working on this book since he showcased the film at his first meeting with the CFO and had only stepped up the production as fears of Scranton's shut-down spread to their branch.
Despite having more photos from her pre-Dunder Mifflin days, there still were plenty that Jim knew exactly when were taken because he had been there too. Looking at them he could almost feel himself at the early Dundies ceremony where she held her award up for the camera, the touch of sadness hidden behind her smile making him feel bad for her all over again.
He felt the flash going off as Kevin snapped the photo of her proudly holding up her gold medal for Skeetshruting, while also remembering Angela’s sneer that was not caught on film but he had also noticed and never told her about.
When he saw the photo of her on ice skates, he felt her hand in his, feeling the heat that radiated from hers to his despite the gloves they wore that day. The way her touch set off little sparks as it pulsed through his body was still preserved in his memory.
He remembered clearly the way he felt when he watched her joyfully sprinkle tinsel on the office tree, and how it almost had him spilling his feelings via a card which he still had tucked away in his nightstand drawer.
There was one he didn’t remember though, taken it seemed since he’d been gone. It had to be recent since he had an eidetic memory of every item she ever wore from the pale pink cardigan that was her favorite to the periwinkle stunner that she wore when he broke his heart, and he’d never seen this sweater on her before.
It was Pam at the desk, phone on her ear, jelly bean container in its rightful place but something was missing. She was smiling but the something lacking was the radiance that her smiled usually possessed.
It pained him to see this less vibrant image of her, pained him more to think about what Michael had said in the dream he just had, that it was the absence of their friendship that drained the luster from her eyes. Five plus months without her, he knew had changed him.
Then one phone call really meant for Kevin but like kismet had reached her and he was feeling almost himself again. That is until the ones that followed.
The one this past Friday, the one he thought might be the start to a brand-new future for him and a path back to her, instead set off a chain of feelings and events that had him falling apart in the conference room.
And try as he might to recall the one on Wednesday, he still couldn’t even remember it, but his phone held the proof of its occurrence.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Pam had to hold the phone away from her ear as a very excited and very loud Jim boomed through the earpiece.
“Hi Jim, is this a good time?”
“It’salways a good time for my pal, Beeeessly,”
Jim responded a little bit softer, trying unsuccessfully not to slur and give away just how drunk he was as he walked away from his desk towards the conference room.
“I texted you earlier, but you didn’t get back to me so I wasn’t sure.”
“You TEXTED me?”
Jim took the phone from his ear to inspect the messages he’d received and through his blurred vision tried to make out the words on the small pixel lit screen.
“Oh yeah, you did.”
Jim read off Pam’s text, trying to do his best Pam voice, his talent for impersonations glitching out due to his condition so he sounded more like Meredith than Pam.
“Jim, are yoooo around? I have something veery funny to share with you.”
Pam laughed anyway, more about drunk Jim than his attempt at imitating her.
“For you, I’m salways around but first I have something I have to tell you. I ate eel tonight.”
“Wow, Jim, getting pretty adventurous there in Stamford.”
“I’m evolving Pam. Stamford Jim eats eel and washes it down with Jager meiser… mister… Jägermeister.”
“And from the sound if it, a whole lot of it.”
“Not that much, just a few shots.”
Jim tried to remember how many it had been, tallying them under his breath but stopped when he realized he’d lost count after four.
“SssBeesly, what were you eating tonight?”
“Me, umm some Naan and Samosas and I tried something new too, Gulab Jamun.”
“What’s Gublub Jammin?”
“It’s an Indian dessert. They’re these sweet, berry-sized, solid milk balls.”
Even near-inebriation wasn’t enough to stop it, he’d been trained and trained well to recognize any and all instances to use the catchphrase no matter the context or conversation. No exception here, it had to be done.
“Thhhat’s what she said!!!”
Pam laughed heartily enjoying the punchline usually associated with Michael. Even though she still heard plenty of that’s what she saids in the office, she’d been missing the ones Jim and she would mouth to each other when they knew one was looming from their boss.
“Good one, Halpert.”
Jim was still laughing at his own joke when he suddenly stopped, wondering why Pam was eating Indian food. Could she be out on a date? Did Kelly set her up with her brother? Did Kelly have a brother?
“Why were you eating Indian food, Beesly?”
“So tonight, we… all of us from the office went to a Diwali festival celebration with Kelly. That’s actually what I wanted to tell you.”
“That you went to a Dwali cebralation… cerelbration… umm, party?”
“Well yes, but really what happened there.”
Pam went on to describe the night, how Dwight showed up in a kurta, but how Michael came in his two headed Michael costume from last year and Carol, his date was dressed as a cheerleader which she had mocked but later felt bad for. She described his singing and dancing and then how he interrupted the festivities to get on stage and propose to her in front of everyone.
“Michael’s getting married?!?”
“No, of course he’s not. She didn’t say yes. In fact, she left him here and then I had to try and cheer him up and then he tried to kiss me.”
“You KISSED Michael?!?”
“No, Jim are you even listening? He tried to kiss me but of course I didn’t let him. Ughh, I can’t believe you would even think I could do that. But I did agree to drive him home. He’s inside trying to find his shoes. Wait no, I must have missed him come back out cause I can see him trying to lift the door handles of random cars—Michael, my car is a blue Yaris, that’s a black Altima. No blue Michael, that’s silver.”
Pam’s voice both got louder and further away as she turned to yell at Michael.
“Jim, I think I should go before Michael crawls into someone’s car. You’re probably not going to even remember anything I told you anyway. Maybe I’ll call you tomorrow so I can tell you when you’re sober.”
“Hey Pam, wait you gotta secret to tell me, I mean, there’s a secret, um something you should know. I’m not sppposed say anything but I gotta tell you cause, well cause I always tell you everthing. But you gotta keep it quiet. I’m not sppposed to tell. But I’m tellin you so you can need to get start looking for another job cause Scranton is closing.”
Before Pam could respond to the words he let slip out, Karen was calling Jim back to their desk area where Andy in his own drunkenness had tripped over his own feet while carrying two stacks of the forms they’d been tasked with entering. Well moments before it was two stacks, one of entered forms and the other yet to be entered forms, but now they were all just scattered all over the floor- with no way to know which was which. Even drunk, Jim knew the disaster this was. They would essentially have to start all over again. His alcohol-clouded eyes could still focus enough to read the fury on Karen’s face. If he didn’t step in there might be a murder on his watch. He wanted to keep talking to Pam, but he was the assistant regional manager or the assistant to the regional manager or some kind of manager. Whatever he was he was supposed to be in charge and so it was up to him to do something about the situation.
“Pam, I gotta go. Karen needs me. We’re pretty involved right now. It’s an office thing but it’s very intense…Yeah, I’m coming Karen.”
After he reluctantly hung up and realized there was nothing much to do, aside from try to calm Karen down, he did the only thing that might make the situation less disastrous. He had a few more shots.