Ain't nobody hurt you like I hurt you But ain't nobody love you like I do- Ed Sheeran by Maxine Abbott
Pam’s job as receptionist was to talk on the phone, which made it ironic that for months she’d been scared to pick it up and call Jim.
She flipped open her phone so many times to try to. She even got as far as dialing his number once or twice but always hung up before the phone rang never quite getting the nerve to complete the call.
How would that go anyway?
Hey Jim, I know you transferred offices to get away from me after I rejected you and I know you probably have a pretty great new life in Stamford that I know nothing about, but I’m single now so why don’t you give all that up and transfer back here.
She knew he was aware she hadn’t gone through with the wedding. She knew Michael told him at the sales convention they attended together and probably he was aware even before that. Gossip never stayed quiet for long in their office and though his desk was miles away, his email was still just a click of the send button. Someone, maybe even a few of her officemates would have sent him the digital dirt the minute Pam showed up with her finger suddenly devoid of the constrictive band she’d worn for over three years.
But he hadn’t called. Even after the convention the only call that came from Connecticut was from the copier company based there when she’d put a complaint through to their main office when their machine went on the fritz yet again. When she saw the 203 come up on the call screen of her phone, her heart nearly stopped as she imagined what she would say at hearing his voice but the pain she felt when it was only Steve from Xerox, was not caused by any cardiac arrest.
Jim was never the type to stand on principle. She thought he’d have gotten in touch even just to see how she was doing because he was her friend. The fact that he hadn’t, told her that he might not even be that anymore.
So, the months went by and still she didn’t reach out. The oceans between them grew deeper. Despite feeling freer than she had in years, she still was stuck in the undercurrent of her inability to act.
But then fate stepped in and 203 lit up on her screen again. This time when she answered she didn’t let her mind even consider the possibility it might be him.
But this time it was.
She knew he hadn’t expected her to be there, it being well after 5:00. She was only there late to babysit Michael and complete the report Jan had requested regarding his activities. But she didn’t care, it was Jim and at the sound of his voice she forgot everything else.
It was awkward at first but only for a few minutes and before long they were Pam and Jim again shooting the shit for what felt like hours, what was hours, she realized after they’d hung up.
They didn’t get too deep into what happened between them or why she left Roy or how she had made the biggest mistake of her life not telling him she loved him too. No, she’d left that to a future conversation, as she hoped there would be more of them. When days passed without hearing from him again, she began to think maybe she’d read more into the call than there was. After all he hadn’t meant to call her. She was just the person who answered the phone. It said a lot that he’d had more contact with Kevin since he’d left than with her, which up until that call had been none.
She wasn’t sure what gave her the courage to call again on the night of Diwali, especially when he hadn’t responded to the text, the beacon she’d issued first to test the waters. But while she waited on Michael, she decided it was time to start acting on her gut, results be damned. Calling couldn’t make things any worse between her and Jim. If Michael could do it, so could she. He’d survived the humiliating results of his impromptu proposal and she had to admire the way he kept right on acting on his impulses, even if they put her in the trajectory of a very unwelcome kiss from him.
She had a good reason to call too. She knew if anyone would get as much of a kick of the night’s events it would be him. And she wouldn’t let the call end so abruptly tonight, except now she remembered she’d promised to play chauffeur and wasn’t sure how much time she would have to speak before Michael found his shoes. Certainly not enough to move past the small talk and onto topics the abrupt end to their last conversation had stilted.
But she decided to call anyway.
Hopefully it wouldn’t be a singular event. Hopefully, they’d have another fun conversation like the other night which would lead to more comfort between them and more phone calls and eventually she could tell him how she was feeling, had been feeling since the day she realized he was gone.
“So, he got up on stage and started singing, you know the Adam Sandler song.”
“Gobble, Gobble Gickle?”
Pam could just see the mirth pouring from Jim’s eyes as he imitated Adam himself, only with the wrong song. Wow, he was pretty wasted she thought as she corrected him.
“No more like, put on your Sari. It’s time to celebrate Diwali.”
“I prefer Gobble, Gobble, Gickle.”
“Ah, sorry, I just like that song. I wish curry only cost a nickel.”
More laughter erupted from the phone. He was being as bad as Michael.
Pam looked around to see if Michael had returned yet with his shoes. Still nowhere to be seen, she went back to her conversation with drunk Jim, using her years of training to redirect him as she often had to do with her boss. Jim was a little easier to get back on track and she went on to tell him about the proposal that followed his musical act.
It wasn’t until Michael did return however, that the conversation turned towards the serious. But it wasn’t the kind of serious she had hoped for. Instead, it was rather portentous news about the fate of her job, all of their jobs in Scranton. But before she could say a word in response, she heard a female voice calling Jim’s name, not his first name but Halpert, the playful name she had so often called him during their friendlier times.
This raspy voice she heard had the kind of deep throaty tone she could only assume drove men wild, especially when it was calling out their names and even though it sounded a touch angry, it had an ownership behind it, as if she had full possession of him.
It was so jarring to Pam she couldn’t completely focus on last thing he said about their branch, did he say it was closing? Her mind was so preoccupied with who this voice belonged to and who she was to Jim she couldn’t be sure she really heard what she thought she heard.
“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.”
Pam tried to say something more, to ask him to elaborate about the thing about Scranton closing but Jim had already hung up and Michael was now setting off the alarm to a green Honda Civic so she had to deal with him before she could even try to call him back.
Pam couldn’t believe how the night had turned. She had been so excited to call Jim and talk with him again, laugh about Michael and follow up on the conversation from the other night. This was supposed to be a phone call to change things. Well change things it did.
Anxious for the entire ride, Pam reached for her phone the second the door shut after Michael exited from the back of her car, and nearly jumped out of skin when he suddenly appeared at her driver’s side window.
After insisting that no, she did not want to come in a take a tour of his place, and only after she witnessed him retreat into his condo and shut the door, did she scroll to the last number dialed and hit send, unsure if Jim would even pick up. She wasn’t sure what she would be disturbing now with this Karen, but being too concerned with what he’d said about the branch she put it out her mind.
Even if it was a date she’d be interrupting, she had to find out what he mumbled before he hung up and if it was definite or just a rumor he’d heard.
It rang a few times before it connected but no one said hello. There was a weird shuffling sound, followed by muffled statement spoken from what seemed far off from the phone’s handler.
“Don’t tell her about us and how we’re going to be the ones to last.”
Then she heard the voice again, clear as day and sounding quite perturbed as it projected into the phone.
“Jim Halpert’s phone.”
An office thing. They started as an office thing. It could have been more but she screwed that up. Seems like he was onto his next office thing and he said they were already pretty involved.
“Um hi, could I talk to Jim?”
“Jim is currently indisposed. He’ll be unable to do any more talking tonight. I’ll let him know you called.”
The phone went dead before Pam could even give the voice on the other end her name. The voice that sounded irritated and angry that some female kept calling as she and Jim were trying to enjoy what sounded to be a pretty wild night.
She could only assume that the smoky voice answering Jim’s phone belonged to his new girlfriend. The one he’d called Karen before, the one he got drunk with, the one that was basically telling Pam in so many words that Jim was unavailable now and would be forever.
He was dating someone. Someone from his office. Someone who’s looks she could only imagine was as sexy as her voice. And according to him it was intense, going to last, intense.
But also, Scranton was closing. How would she manage now that she was on her own? She’d depleted everything she had saved over the past months after the breakup. Without a job what would she do?
At that moment, Pam wasn’t sure which was the worse news.