After seeing his wife cry in the hallway outside the warehouse, Jim had spent a good part of the day having an emotional breakdown at the stairwell with Dwight comforting him. Once he was all cried out, he stayed quiet, staring blankly into the wall.
“Well, I’m gonna go. Big day tomorrow,” Dwight spoke, finally breaking the long silence. “I’m finally getting my black belt in Goju-Ryu after twenty years of training. Can you believe it? I think it was $150,000 well spent.”
“Twenty years of training,” Jim thought to himself. “What’s that like? How were your classmates from twenty years ago? I wonder how they’re doing now. Probably not selling paper and getting a black belt in Goju-Ryu, that I can be sure of.” He did not have the energy to poke fun at Dwight. Instead, he smiled weakly at him and nodded. He then felt a strong pat on his shoulder as Dwight stood up and went up the stairs.
Jim remained seated in silence as he continued to reflect on the events that had transpired. He checked his watch and realized that it had already been four hours since Pam left him at the parking lot.
Being exposed was one of his biggest fears. He had not problem taking risks with work and his career but it was a different story when it came to his feelings. Whenever he was feeling vulnerable, he would often mask it with an illusion of confidence and goofiness, which was probably why he thrived as a salesman. His mind wandered to seven years ago when he first confessed his love to her. He had put everything on the line and allowed himself to express how he truly felt. Getting rejected twice on that night was too much for him to handle that he left for Stamford the following day.
Although the confession eventually led to a chain of events that would open the door to their love, vulnerability is something that he would try to avoid especially if he was unsure of its effect. When Pam did not hug him back, he was revisited by the feeling of dejection after taking a risk that did not pay off. It was a similar feeling as seven years ago, except this time, he had a wife and two kids so there was not a Stamford that he could rely on .
After a few more minutes, he finally stood up, went downstairs and headed to the lobby. He gathered his belongings which he, in a rush to get to Pam, had haphazardly tossed at one of the chairs in the cafe lobby. He was initially surprised when he saw that his car was not in the parking lot and it occurred to him that Pam does not know that he stayed in Scranton.
“Great, I’m probably the last person she probably wants to see right now and she doesn’t even know that I’m not in Philly,” he sighed as he tried calling for a cab.
He covered his eyes as a maroon 1987 Pontiac Trans Am headed to the entrance of the building. “Get in,” Dwight pointed to the passenger’s seat as he rolled up the window.
The car ride to Jim’s house was filled with silence. As much as he wanted to strike up a conversation with Dwight, he was too preoccupied with what exactly he will do when he sees Pam again. He was still unsure given that the last thing that she told him was she needed time. “I don’t know. How much time does she needed? Do I just go back to Philly and wait for her to come up with an answer? Do I just confront her now?”
As they stopped outside at his front yard, Dwight told him, “Jim look—” He paused mid-sentence, sighed deeply and continued, “Don’t be an idiot. It’s probably hard for you to do since you are one and have always been one. But try not to be an idiot with this one.”
Jim gave him a confused look. “Okay, thanks Dwight,” he said as he stepped out of the car and headed to his house.
Pam had already been home for nearly four hours. After saying goodbye to her mother who was babysitting for her and Jim, she started preparing dinner for herself and the kids. Helene had offered to help before leaving but she declined. “You already spent the entire day with them and they can be quite a handful so I know you’re tired. Don’t worry, I can handle it.”
Pam had not yet confided to anyone in her family about the troubles that were occurring in her marriage. The last thing she needed was a lecture from her mother about how men cannot be trusted and they will always leave when the going gets tough. She shuddered at the idea of her grandmother hearing the news and blaming everything on her accidental pregnancy.
“It’s not like I’m divorced so there’s nothing to tell. Besides, she dated Michael without telling me so maybe there are things we just don’t have to tell each other,” she chuckled at the thought of her being furious when she found out. She was also furious with Jim for not telling her but it was only for a short time as he took her back to memories of their honeymoon in Puerto Rico
After dinner, she then went on to wash the dishes while humming to the tune of Y.M.C.A. She remembered Cafe Disco and how she and Jim danced their way through the afternoon with the rest of their officemates. She always considered herself to be a dorky and uncoordinated dancer but watching Jim smile and dance just as awkwardly as her made her embarrassment fade away.
“Frank and Beans,” she said in a low growly voice and she laughed as remembered an inside joke of theirs. She was then overcome with sadness at the thought of her husband. She began to wonder how he was doing given how they left things before he left for Philadelphia. She wiped her hands with a cloth, grabbed her phone which was on the table, and started typing.
“Hey Jim, hope you got to Philly safely. Kids are asleep. Listen, about today. I just want you to know that….”
She paused for a moment then deleted her progress. She thought about something else to say but eventually closed her phone. “Maybe later…” she thought to herself.
She was startled upon hearing the door to their home open. She quickly went to check who it was and how they were able to enter without a key.
“Oh, Jim. I thought you were in Philly, I wasn’t able to—,” she was interrupted when her husband walked to her and pressed his lips against hers. She was initially shocked by the sudden rush of emotion but she allowed herself to indulge in the pleasure of kissing her husband. He kissed her two more times before he pulled away.
“Pam, listen. I know you said you need time. And if that’s what you need…then okay." Jim gave out a half smile as he held her hands.
Pam was silent as she studied Jim’s eyes. She could see how tired he was just by looking at them. She wondered how much of an emotional toll this day took on him. She also asked herself what he was doing in Scranton if he didn’t leave for Philly and if he was just in the office the entire time.
She snapped out of her own thoughts and realized that Jim had been staring at her for quite some time, waiting for a response. Struggling to find the right words, she decided to just nod back, “Okay.”
“Okay,” she could hear tiny glimmer of hope in Jim’s voice as he replied.
Jim stayed in the guest bedroom for the night. He thought about staying in the same room as Pam, but then decided it would be for the best to give her some space.
“Don’t be an idiot” was the last thing Dwight told him before he left. He wondered if the reason why Pam didn’t hug him back was because she was not looking for a grand declaration of love. He then decided before entering the house to listen and give her what she wanted: time. He continued to ponder if he did the right thing.
His body, already worn out from the day's events, forced him into a slumber before he could think further on the matter.