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Author's Chapter Notes:

First of all thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed so far. It really makes my day to read all your thoughts and know you are enjoying.

It seems like you're all still with me in the order of events. Hopefully it won't get too confusing with this next chapter that starts on the day of the crazy dream and then backtracks twice to earlier events.

This title song is on my Jam playlist because of Boredhswf’s amazing Pam and Jim montage. Her talents go beyond her amazing writing. Check out her video.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tn6VHlHJFo


I wish I was worth

What I know you deserve

You know I'd rather drown

Than to go on without you

But you're pulling me down

Feels like there's oceans
Between me and you once again



Wednesday, November 8, 2006

“Never ever, ever give up.”

Jim blinked opened his eyes to find he wasn’t at Poor Richard’s. Instead of a dimly lit bar, he was adjusting to the harsh light of the empty conference room. Crazy dreams, they weren’t limited to just deep of night slumber anymore. Now it appeared they could haunt his daytimes too. It seemed any time his eyes got heavy and his brain shut down, his subconscious became a breeding ground for the inane and ridiculous.

This one with Michael felt so real, in part because it wasn’t far-fetched for Michael to be enjoying a beer at Poor Richard’s in real life but more because there was so much truth to the things dream-state Michael Scott spoke of. The dancing on the bar, however, that seemed a step too peculiar, even for Michael.

He reached his hand up from where it lay flat on the table to wipe away the trickle of saliva that had escaped from a dry, cracked corner of his mouth and dribbled down to his chin. Under his head was the ersatz pillow for his unplanned nap, a spiral bound book that lay open beneath him and left divots on his cheek.

It was the same book Josh had given him towards the end of the day while making fun of Michael with snide comments and hearty laughing.

“Get this Jim. Your old boss had these books made up. All the suits at corporate got one.”

It had been there on Josh’s desk, a coiled presentation that at first glance seemed like it was a company profile or annual report.

"Bad enough he made that movie to show on our first meeting with David. Now he’s following up with this. I think he actually believes making this joke of a book is going to convince corporate to keep the Scranton office open instead of ours.”

The thick booklet was printed on glossy stock paper and had a metal spiral binding, making it seem very official and not at all like a joke as Josh made it out to be.

“As if showcasing the clowns you used to work with would be a positive thing. Like featuring collages of the ways they waste time in a picture book doesn’t make Michael seem even more incompetent and more careless with company resources.”

As Jim got a closer look at the book, he started to realize why Josh was having a hard time keeping the smirk off his face as he spoke about it.

“How did you ever work with that moron?”

From where he sat Jim could just about make out the title, The Faces of Scranton, the companion piece to the award-winning film, which was printed on the cover of the book Josh was now handing off to him.

“Jan showed it to me when she was by this morning to follow up with me about a few things in regards to plans for the future here.”

Jim had been wondering about their morning meeting and was just a little nervous she was there to call Jim out for his actions earlier in the week, maybe even to rescind the position Jim was up for.

“I imagine they’d all had a laugh about it in New York. Anyway, she left hers here and I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing it, being you’re right here on the first page.”

As Josh handed off the publication, Jim got a better look. What he originally thought was a polished presentation was in essence a yearbook with a group photo on the front page. The shot was clearly photoshopped, with some of the heads wildly out of proportion in relation to the sizes of the bodies they belonged to. Meredith’s photo in particular was gruesomely wrong, the unnatural angle of her neck eerily reminding him of the freakish position of Linda Blair’s head after it rotated a full 360 degrees in The Exorcist.*

Creepier still was the headless body, his own, not quite hidden in the back row, his head floating in a small callout box off to the side with a caption that read “Gone, But Not Forgotten.” Jim shuddered at seeing it. But it wasn’t completely inaccurate. Since he’d left Scranton, and her, there were days he felt lifeless, as the decapitation and caption insinuated.

Inside the book there were pages full of photos featuring the many events they’d held over the years. Aside from the collages of holiday parties, team building activities and general office mayhem, there was also a dedicated photo spread for every one of his former co-workers.

Angela Martin, Kevin Malone, Oscar Martinez.

Their names were prominently displayed at the top of their page along with a headline that described who they were and what they did.

Stanley Hudson, Dwight K. Schrute, Ryan Howard.

Their chronicles were displayed in photos, snapshots of their lives, moments from childhood right on through to the last Dundies event held a few months after Jim had left for Stamford.

Creed Bratton, Phyllis Lapin, Kelly Kapoor, Meredith Palmer.

Biographies of varying lengths accompanied the photos, there to highlight their roles and responsibilities along with the qualities that made them special.

Toby’s page was conspicuously missing.

Jim thumbed through it as he left Josh’s office, snickering only until he was out of Josh’s view. Back at his own desk, he took a closer look, the smile on his face becoming something more of affection, brought on by nostalgia rather than ridicule.

Still, what was evident from flipping through the pages were the vast differences in how the two offices were run. A glance around his current office on any given day would reveal hard-working salespeople on calls or focused on computer monitors that displayed sales leads and industry news instead of high scores and forwarded email jokes.

Often the desks were vacant, but not because they were in an unnecessary conference room meeting or goofing off in the breakroom. Desks sat empty because the industrious sales staff went on many outside calls, quality control followed through on their inspection visits, vendor relation reps were out relating with their vendors.

Outside sales calls here were highly encouraged and incentivized by Josh who went on quite a lot himself. Stamford ran like a machine, all the cogs and wheels doing their part to keep everything running smooth. It was hard to understand why they couldn’t quite catch Scranton in sales.

Of course, they had Call of Duty days, day when the Stamford machine was refitted to attack and destroy in the online game Josh was so obsessed with. Jim had not been the precision part Josh had hoped for when he started, but at least he was not a liability anymore after some extra tutoring from Karen.

But even on these days, when they spent half of it engaged in online battle, the “get shit done” to “horseplay” ratio was tipped to favor real work. After Call of Duty, the salespeople were pumped and often came back from afternoon calls with monster sales, the accounting team was laser-focused on capturing past due receivables and new business reps crossed enemy lines to win over new territories.

The sheer number of photos in Michael’s book with his old colleagues eating cake, engaged in pranks or playing limbo on a party boat showed the stark contrast of wasted time in Scranton against productive time in Stamford. Jim knew the photos didn’t even show the half of it—even with a camera crew watching their every move, the team in his old office were still highly distracted from real work, most often by Michael and Jim knew there wasn’t quite the analogous benefit to the nonsense that went on back there.

But truth be told he missed the tomfoolery and his Scranton office friends and seeing these photos only accentuated what he’d been feeling still after almost six months away. Melancholy overcame him as he flipped through the pages, but it was seeing her page that had his heart pounding and clouded his head with uncertainty, musing over what he was going to do.


Two days earlier…Monday, November 6, 2006

He’d already gone to Jan about what he heard, not able to fully disclose all of it, out of loyalty to Matthew, the other refugee in Stamford with him, but shared enough, he supposed, to get some reaction from her.

He got a reaction, but it wasn’t quite the one he’d expected.

Jan didn’t seem at all shocked to hear what Jim had to say, that Josh was planning on leaving for a job at Staples if Dunder Mifflin wouldn’t match his monetary offer.

“Thank you for bringing it to my attention but honestly, it’s not a shock. Josh is a go-getter and a hustler. Of course, we want him hustling for us but I’m not surprised he’d want to take advantage of the situation here.”

Jim was a little surprised Jan was taking it so lightly. That he had even been talking to Staples, their biggest competitor, seemed a huge breach and cause for concern but Jim was still green in the way things worked higher up on the corporate food chain.

“Happens all the time in business. I leveraged an opportunity or two to get where I am. It’s how the game is played, Jim. But we feel Josh’s managerial skills and professionalism still make him the better choice to head up DM Northeast. We’re prepared to match whatever salary they are offering.”

Jim was pretty sure that what Josh was doing went beyond pursuing a bigger raise. Plus, there were a lot of moving pieces that relied on Josh being a loyal and dedicated manager which Jim was quickly learning he was not. But this was a sticky position he was in. Josh could remain his boss after all and ratting him out would not win him any favors should Jan reveal it to him that he was the snitch. But he also felt a duty to the company to prevent the damage Josh could impart if they kept him on. He knew he had to tread lightly with what he said next.

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” Jim countered anyway, “Maybe there’s a better option you could take.”

Jim couldn’t believe he was suggesting what he was but knowing enough of what Josh was up to he felt he had to. He couldn’t be sure how it would all play out but it had a potentially devastating effect for him, the Stamford branch and even the whole company. But he had to paint his story with a delicate hand. He heard a lot but not enough to make an outright accusation. Doing so might paint himself out of his promotion or even his job and at the same time put Matthew in a bad spot with his employer.

Jim tried to give Jan a perspective from the underlings, that if Josh was even considering making a move now, he wasn’t proving himself to be good leader. He had without a doubt lost his confidence in the company’s future and even if he stayed on, his attitude trickled down, no matter how much Dunder Mifflin paid him. At least that’s what Jim tried to argue since he couldn’t speak directly to what he and Matthew had heard in the review of the office recordings as he’d promised he wouldn’t bring it up.

But Jan wasn’t hearing it.

“Jim, I’m going to stop you right there. I think your affection for your old buddies and boss are clouding your judgement here. We both know what goes on in your old office and we both know even if we have to pay Josh more than we were originally planning, it’s worth it. Better to have him in charge than the alternative.”

Jim knew what Jan was saying made sense. He knew what he had suggested and so did Jan. Whether they called him the other option or the alternative, it was Michael they were talking about. His ex-boss and her ex-lover, something he still couldn’t quite fathom. So even if he didn’t know exactly what kind of antics were still going on in his old office—the little knowledge he had because he was somewhat involved in them—he was also up against a woman’s scorn, Jan’s, which would be hard to prevail over.

Plus, he was pretty much aware that despite his absence, Scranton still operated in the same manner, wasting time, money and resources thanks to Michael, Dwight and to some respect him, though Pam was probably the only one who figured how he was behind Dwight’s metal detecting their co-workers and checking everyone’s seat for bombs.

It was, in fact, his involvement in pranks at his old office that led him to know what he knew. He had only come upon his information from overhearing it when he was in the office early one morning sending out a fax from Future Dwight.

He knew he was up against a losing battle but even so he wasn’t quite ready to give up. Money was always the bottom line and so he tried that course, bringing up how Scranton still brought in more sales in spite of the management.

But again, Jan shot him down.

“I know Scranton does slightly better, I’m not quite sure how, but I believe with a few key personnel changes and Josh at the helm we can make up for any shortfalls from Scranton closing.”

Personnel changes, that meant Dwight would be offered a place in Stamford too. Harassing Dwight, he realized it was something he actually did enjoy and even missed, but he knew it was really because of Pam that he enjoyed it so much. Torturing Dwight was fun but it was the time spent at reception scheming up new ways to provoke him that made it better. And whether they acted together or he flew solo, it was seeing her face come alive with sparkles of laughter whenever he put his office supplies in Jell-O or wrapped his phone in Saran Wrap that gave him the real satisfaction. Anything that could bring that smile to her face brought one to his as well. True, he loved playing his pranks, but the joy from pranking his old colleague was all wrapped up in her.

Having to deal with Dwight without Pam there with him too was not something that would make his situation better and he knew Pam would likely not be coming over. Stamford already had a receptionist. And she didn’t even blink, let alone laugh, when Andy freaked out about his gelatin-encased calculator.

“Frankly Jim, I’m surprised that you are bringing this all up. If I recall, you were the one who wanted to transfer, to get away from some issues you were having in the old office. Would you even be prepared to go back, that is if we even offered you the opportunity? Playing musical offices isn’t exactly showing your own professionalism. Quite frankly, neither is calling out your boss.”   

At this point Jim wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore. He knew he wasn’t really happy in Stamford. Sure, there was Karen, who had become a friend and maybe something more since Friday night. She was attractive, smart and friendly but as much as he enjoyed messing around with her at work and even though he’d taken the messing around to a place way past pranks and goofs a few nights ago, he wasn’t quite smitten. The world around him didn’t suddenly become ten times brighter when she was near. He didn’t crave her smile and feel weak when she laughed. There wasn’t that feeling of giddiness and completeness around Karen, not like there had been from almost the minute he met Pam.

He thought back to that first meeting, when he first laid eyes on the smile that she greeted him with as he made his way to the front desk where she sat. He recalled the warm glow emanating from her crystal green eyes and the bubbly smile that lit up her face as she welcomed him, taking a few minutes to get to know him before letting Michael Scott know he had arrived. They engaged in small talk while he waited in the spot where the carpet would slowly become more and more worn from how often his heavy feet would tread over it in the years to come.

Right away, she got him. The very fact that she warned him about Dwight told him that she was playful, observant and a very good judge of character. And she was cute too, with a bouncy little laugh that seemed to magically settle his first day jitters.

Before she even knew of Jim’s love of pranks, she shared how she habitually forwarded all the telemarketing calls that came through the main number to that other young salesman in her line of sight, the one with the funky middle part, the short-sleeved shirt the color of a UPS truck and a look of gritty diligence on his face, even though all he was doing was rearranging the bobble head dolls that lined his desk.

One look at the mischievousness behind her eyes as she described his frustration when he got fooled by a robocall or tricked into extending his car’s warranty told Jim she would go on to be his partner in crime. And he was right. A day later they were already scheming new ways to prank him together. When he suggested hiding all his writing utensils, she claimed she could do better than that and pulled open her drawer full of non-working pens, claiming she never threw them out because she knew there would be a use for them someday. He clapped in delight at her reveal, already head over heels over the pretty receptionist, only to be shocked later that day when he learned not only was she engaged, but the humorless oaf that was to be her husband worked right downstairs.

With Karen, their initial meeting was almost the opposite. Daggers seemed to shoot from her eyes as Josh introduced them, her resentment hard to disguise. Matthew mentioned how she ridiculed him in her first talking head and he could swear she was burning a hole in the back of his head with the scornful looks he caught in the reflection of his computer monitor. But the mocking tone she took with him over the first few weeks slowly softened as she got to know him, especially after the expedition he initiated to find her favorite chips. His mission to get her to loosen up and like him may have tipped the scales too much the other way. Now they were friends, very good friends but Jim still wasn’t sure he wanted it to become much more than that, despite his actions on Friday night.

He felt somewhat guilty about what had happened, knowing she would expect next steps, real dates and nightly phone calls while he was still unable to think of anyone but Pam.  Even though that same night he learned Pam was still not meant to be his future.

The situation with Karen gave him a new understanding of Pam’s position all those years, in the way he wanted nothing more than to be with her while she saw him as nothing more than her office bud. But at least she stopped him at a kiss, where Jim knew he let it go too far with Karen. They hadn’t slept together but he crossed over the boundaries of friendship when he crossed the boundaries of her blazer and blouse during the make-out session in her bedroom.

Aside from the messy situation he created with Karen, there was also Andy who, when he wasn’t having anger issues, was tolerable, maybe could even be considered a friend, but never was going to become a replacement for Mark or George or any of the buddies he’d had in Scranton.

And then he wasn’t sure what would happen to the job in Stamford. From what he heard things could go south fast and he had no intention of following Josh even if he were to try and bring him over to Staples.

Hanging up with Jan and returning to the office he tried to put it out of his mind. Jan had assured him his position as the number two was still secure. He hadn’t completely derailed his opportunity by inculpating Josh. He would still get to be the man on the ground but for how long, he wondered?

However long it was he supposed he could spend the time looking for something else, maybe back in Scranton or maybe Philly so he’d be ready to jump ship if and when things got too bad.

But the thing that kept his head spinning was her sad voice, her panic, her fear about what she would do now that she had rent, car payments and a whole lot of debt paying for a wedding that never happened. Even though once again she could not be his, he still couldn’t bear to think of her in any kind of distress.  Distress he learned of when he called her back after he realized he’d missed her calls, well maybe not missed, maybe just didn’t remember them happening at all.

Friday, November 3, 2006

He called Pam late that Friday.

He would have called her sooner but it was only earlier that day he learned from Karen what a quick look back at his phone’s history might have told him sooner had he thought to take a peek.

Pam had called him, in fact she’d called him twice on Wednesday, the second of her calls he learned, was answered by Karen and only because at the same moment he flipped open his phone, his stomach did a flip of its own.  It may not have been a Call of Duty day at the office but there was still a war taking place, only it was inside his abdominal cavity as the dinner of spicy eel and the far too many shots of Jägermeister battled for dominance. It was all he could do to toss his phone over to Karen just moments before he tossed his cookies into a nearby trash can.

But memories of the calls never formed, they instead vanished into that vast black hole that also housed texts he’d written but never sent, conversations he wished he’d had but never did and visions of a future that disappeared when she uttered I can’t.

He’d learned of the calls earlier but the day’s events kept him from calling her back any sooner and so it was only after he met with Matthew that he was able to ring her, ready to apologize for taking so long.

He was pacing outside the Starbucks working off nervous energy and his unease over the information he just uncovered with Matt when he dialed her number.  She answered on the first ring and barely got out the word hello before her voice cracked and she began weeping in between choking out words.

It was a little hard to hear her between the slurring, she’d obviously had a lot to drink already. On top of that, persistent sniffling and background noise from a crowed bar drowned out every other word. From what he could make out it seemed the whole Scranton office had gone out to drown their sorrows.

In between mottled sobs he could have sworn he also heard a mumbled confession about how she called off her wedding in part because of him, but he couldn’t be sure since most of the uttering was swallowed up in tears and hyperventilations. When he heard her say you’re now on the path to marriage with someone else, he knew it was all just drunken rambling since he was still very single and very much still in love with her.  

Once before he’d witnessed her that drunk. It was at Dundies night. Between her apprehension about getting another “longest engagement” award and what he assumed was another fight with Roy, she’d managed to get so blitzed she fell off a chair and got herself banished for life from Chili’s. But at least on the night of the awards ceremony she became a happy drunk.

The very drunk Pam weeping into his earpiece was not happy at all. She was basically losing it as she cried about the branch closing, her looming money troubles and how she was too late. Too late for what he wasn’t sure but he just listened, waiting for a pause so he could try and calm her and ensure her he would do everything he could to help things work out for her. But her sobs got deeper and her words became unintelligible and he was getting ready to start driving to Scranton so he could be there for her in person even if it would take him two hours to get there.

That is until he heard Danny freaking Cordray start hitting on her at the bar.

What was he even doing at Poor Richards? It didn’t seem like the type of place that Mr. Smooth and Sophisticated would deign to visit. He assumed that’s where they were since she said they were all there, all shell-shocked from the news and that was where they always went after a tough day in the office. But things change. In the six months he was gone maybe they found a new haunt to frequent. One that appealed to the more cultured set, guys like the Danny Cordray.

Wherever they were, he was there too, that smarmy, pompous, smooth talking, extremely attractive, Osprey paper salesman and this time it wasn’t one of their clients he was working over, it was Pam and even though moments ago she was miserable, now she seemed to be eating it up. Jim, Dwight, even Stanley they all knew Danny, having competed with his charming ways, ways that seemed to worked on women as well as office managers and CEOs.

His whole operation was slick, Jim had to admit but he never thought Danny was Pam’s type. He could only hear what was happening through the phone but could still picture the scene playing out. He sauntered over, with his smoldering eyes and that perfectly coiffed hair that seemed to make women swoon and lightheartedly gave Pam a hard time for being so tense and gloomy in the bar and remarked how he couldn’t have that. Jim imagined him gently removing the phone from her hands, commenting on how whomever she was speaking to was causing her grief (and who says whomever anyway) and despite her protests he managed to get her to acquiesce and put down the phone. But the line stayed open, the call didn’t end and Jim heard every bit of his pick-up, up to and including getting her number and setting up a date for the following night.

He was only relieved she hadn’t left with him that night, that might have killed him, thinking of him taking advantage of her drunken state more than he already had. Had that been the case would have gotten right into the car and driven straight there despite not knowing where there might have been, finding himself enacting the scene from West Side Story where Tony wandered through the streets only in this case, he’d be calling for Danny Cordray instead of Chino.  

But that didn’t happen. He knew because Kelly’s distinctive high-pitched squeals were soon traveling over the airwaves and though he held it away from his head, her irritating prattle rang in his ears as if she were right there with him and not just transmitting through the speaker of his phone. She’d come over to Pam as soon as Danny left, obviously in a similar drunk state, or perhaps not. With Kelly, sober or highly intoxicated sounded very much the same, vociferous prattle and marathon speed dialogue with no conventional pauses in her sing-song timbre.

She sat down next to Pam, squeaking without breaths over the sounds of the bar, throwing question after question about the guy Pam had been talking to; who was he and when were they going out. Questions soon became declarations that he was so sexy with the splash of grey in his hair and confident swagger and then once she learned who he was and what he did, she boldly stated that he would get them both jobs at Osprey. Leave it to Kelly to forget any woes they were having as soon as there was something to gossip about.

But soon even Kelly’s mood changed back as she remembered their situation and what it meant for her and Ryan and she began pleading with Pam to have Danny find a job for him, too. Please, Pam, please, she carried on as if Pam was the new Osprey hiring manager already and not just Danny’s new love interest.

Jim listened a bit longer, waiting for Pam to speak again but with Kelly’s long-winded blathering he knew it was unlikely. Finally, after 15 minutes more than he’d otherwise have tolerated listening to Kelly ramble on, he could take it no longer and finally hung up.

He wondered how Pam and the rest of the office had even found out about the almost certain decision to shut Scranton, but he knew that gossip always found a way to spread especially when it was bad news, so he put it out of his mind.

What popped in instead was the eerily real feeling dream he’d suddenly remembered, brought on perhaps from hearing Kelly’s voice. In it, Kelly had brought the whole office, including him to a Diwali celebration at the local high school gym.

While there, Michael proposed to Carol, the realtor he started dating Jim’s last week in Scranton, the one that he’d chosen over Jan. The Carol in his dream, of course said no, where he wasn’t sure what the answer might have been had it been Jan in his head.

Then, while they all looked on, he began singing his rendition of Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song, which made sense only because Jim knew Michael had trouble distinguishing between holidays and customs of any religion other than Christianity.   

His dreams had been pretty wacky lately but where this came from was beyond him. It wasn’t really about the job or about Pam except for a last part that he recalled where Michael, in his sadness over the rejection reached over to kiss her, and to his shock and horror, she kissed him back.

Lately, dream deciphering was his new fixation and therefore at least five different dream interpretation websites were bookmarked on his computer. However, he knew dreaming about the love of your life kissing your old boss wouldn’t come up in the searches on any of them.

Had it been a premonition about Pam being free but still not wanting him?

Whether or not it was, Pam was in fact moving on and not with him.

And now aside from the despair brought on roughly 6 months ago, as strong today as the day he left town, and the worry he still felt thinking of her losing her job, there was a new pressure weighing down on his psyche, a new puncture in his already weak heart–she was going on dates, with men like Danny who he couldn’t compete with even if he weren’t living miles away.

The hope he only just started to have after the one phone call between them that he thought might have meant something, it had passed, just another thing stolen, like so many clients over the years, by Danny Cordray. His courage to try again was depleted. Just as soon as it came, it was gone, just like any phone calls between them that would soon cease to exist once she ensconced herself in a new relationship.


Chapter End Notes:

I know, I know- what calls on Wednesday? What does Jim know about Josh? And what happened with Karen? All will be revealed.

Meanwhile any thoughts on everything so far are always lovely to hear and wildly appreciated.

Oh, and the open phone line, not likely? Well then I direct you to the future when Jim gets a very long, very drunk voicemail from Pam while she was out with her art school friends. Seems the girl does not know how hit end.

*One more note here, John is a fan of this movie, and haunted by this scene something I discovered after I had already written this when I heard an interview with him. It’s a great listen if you have the time. 

SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversation with John Krasinski

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