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Fall, 2008

She looked at Frank, innocently sitting by the door, and laughed. He had dragged his leash from the closet, and in the process, had knocked over the four umbrellas that had been stored at the bottom of the closet. “Okay, okay, let’s go,”she said,letting the fluffy gray mutt run down the hall.

As she walked down her stoop, Frank began pulling to the left, towards the dog park. Pam ignored him and turned left. She had an urge for an early afternoon ice cream cone, and ice cream trumped dog park any day. They stopped at the Tasti-D-Lite on Lexington Ave, and Gobind, the owner, ignored the health code violations when Pam entered with Frank. She was a regular customer, and Frank was pretty harmless. They walked north a few blocks, while Pam enjoyed her ice cream. She closed her eyes momentarily and turned her head towards the sun. It was a beautiful day, and she knew it was one of the last warm days of the season. At each cross street, Frank tried to turn right, heading towards the East River Esplanade. Finally, at 83th Street, she obliged.

They walked on the sunny side of the street, and all was peaceful until Frank lurched towards a cocker spaniel coming the opposite way. Frank’s enthusiasm for everything—people, other dogs, bacon—always made Pam laugh, but not when she was walking and carrying ice cream. She tripped and dropped the cone, getting her hands sticky in the process. She tried to reprimand him, but as soon as she looked at his brown eyes, she had to smile, and she let him lick her hands clean instead.

They approached Peter’s, a small café on the corner of Second Ave where Pam had always wanted to eat. People were sitting at tables set out on the sidewalk, eating brunch and drinking mimosas. Pam looked at the frittatas longingly, but reminded herself that she had just treated herself to ice cream, and was about to look away when her eyes suddenly met his.

Her heart stopped. Her feet stopped. And Frank, being an obedient companion, stopped with her,eyeing the pancakes on the table closest to them. She hadn’t seen him in two and a half years, but there was no mistaking him. His hair was shorter, he had gained a few pounds, but his smile was the same. He was smiling at his table-mate, telling an animated story, his arms flailing around. He punctuated his story with a laugh, and at that moment, he caught sight of Pam, still rooted in the same spot.

“Pam!” His eyes were wide with surprise, but his voice was warm and inviting.

“Hey!” She finally found her voice, although she was sure it sounded strange.

He stood up and greeted her with an enthusiastic hug. Pam felt like she was in a dream. She had forgotten what he smelled like, but as soon as he enveloped her, things she hadn’t thought about in a long time came flooding back.

She stepped back, a bit dizzy. This was too surreal. “What—what are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here? I live here!”

“Are you kidding me?” Pam said with an incredulous look, unable to tear her eyes away from his.

“Don’t tell me you live in New York.”

“I live on 80th and Third,” she said. Now, it was Jim’s turn to be speechless. “What—where do you live?” She was almost afraid to hear his answer.

“I live three blocks from here.”

They stared at each other in disbelief, until Jim gave Pam another hug. “God, its great to see you Pam.” He sounded genuine, and for that, Pam was grateful.

“Hey, I’m sorry, let me introduce you. This is my friend, Amy,” Jim said, gesturing towards his dining partner, someone Pam hadn’t even noticed until this moment. “Amy, this is Pam, an old friend.” Pam tore her gaze from the pretty blonde and looked back at Jim. An old friend. She knew it was just a figure of speech, but the thought of being Jim’s friend againmade something in herheart stir--something that had been quiet for a long, long time.

“Well hi! I love meeting Jim’s friends!” Pam was forced to look back at Amy. She had a warm smile and a big chest. Amy extended her hand, and before she realized what she was doing, Pam was shaking it with her ice cream/dog drool hand. “Oh--sorry!” She said, grabbing her hand away and pointing at the dog. “I hope you don’t mind a little dog drool.”

Amy laughed. “Of course not, I love dogs,” she said, and kneeled down to scratch Frank under his chin. He was immediately putty in her hands, and rolled onto his back for a full rub-down. Amy obliged, scratching him in his favorite spots.

Amy was entertained, so the two old friends turned back to one another. “God—there’s so much to catch up on,” Jim said. “How’s Roy?”

At the sound of his name, Pam’s mouth tightened a bit. “He’s good. . . . I’ve heard he’s good,” she said with a little nod, hoping she wouldn’t have to say more.

Jim looked at her with surprise, but seemed to get the hint. “Oh, okay.” He seemed flustered. “So, uh, so, what are you doing here? Are you working for Dunder-Mifflin?”

Pam was relieved the subject had been changed. “Oh, god no!” she said with mock horror. “I left about a year and a half ago. I’m still a secretary, but I’m working at a publishing house.” She gave a little laugh. “I’ve moved from blank paper to paper with actual writing on it.”

Jim kept on smiling at her, and she suddenly realized that she was blushing. She turned away and glanced towards the street, hoping he wouldn’t notice her warm cheeks.

“That’s great, Pam. Paper with writing on it!" He gave afriendly laugh. "So, who is your supplier? Please tell me you are supporting our favorite mid-size independent paper company.”

She had to look at him again, and tried to suppress her smile. “Don’t report me. We use the big bad chain store.”

“No—not Staples!” They broke into an easy laugh, and it seemed to Pam as if very little had changed.

“So, what are you up to?” Pam asked.

“Actually, I work in advertising.”

“Really?” Pam couldn’t hide her surprise. It made sense. He was really clever and could think on his feet, but whenever she thought of him, she had always imagined he was still in sales.

“Yeah. My cousin knew a friend who was starting her own business and wanted to recruit some people with no background in advertising—you know, get some fresh ideas. I guess I fit the bill. It’s worked out pretty well so far.”

Amy was finished playing with Frank, and joined Jim and Pam. Suddenly feeling like a third wheel, Pam became aware that she had interrupted their meal. Their food lay cold on the table.

“Hey, I’m really sorry for interrupting. I didn’t mean to ruin your meal.”

“Oh, that’s okay!” Amy said with a smile. “It was great meeting you Pam.”

Pam took the hint. “Oh, okay. Great meeting you, too, Amy,” she said, forcing a smile. She turned to Jim again. “Well, wow, it was really great to run into you.” She wanted to say more, but couldn’t.

“Yeah, Pam, this was really nice. We shouldn’t wait another two years before we talk again.”

Pam nodded. That was the understatement of the year. She was about to say something, anything, just to continue the conversation, but suddenly he was giving her a hug good-bye, and heading back to his table, smiling at Amy.

That was it. No teary reunion, just a “hey, nice to see ya’, lets do this again some time.” She began to walk away, but looked back at him, hoping that she could meet his gaze. It didn't happen. He was already settled back into conversation with Amy, engrossed in whatever she was saying.

She willed her legs to move, one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t until she reached the park that she realized that she hadn’t asked him what his phone number was or where he lived. And he didn’t seem to care.

To be continued...

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