Dwight is installing the new World of Warcraft when Jim gets in on Monday, and Pam has called in sick. He puts his stuff down and goes to the breakroom, where the coffee is tepid and kind of greasy-tasting because someone used the last coffee filter as a bowl for microwave popcorn. He drinks his salty coffee black, then goes back out to the bullpen.
Michael isn't in his office. Dwight is spinning the CD on his finger, watching the progress bar move on his screen.
"No," says Dwight.
"No, you cannot join my guild. It's for experienced, advanced night-elf rogues only."
"I have ... no idea why I should care that I don't know what you're talking about."
"That's fine, shield your wounded dignity. It won't get you onto the Quenya Force."
Jim opens up Outlook and sifts through the three thousand emails he gets every weekend. Angela is subscribed to some inspirational mailing list and keeps forwarding it to the office group. Some of the field rep guys are having problems distinguishing between the "contains recycled material" and "100% recycled pulp" product lines. Kevin sent three emails asking if anyone wanted to come see his band open for a Steely Dan tribute band on Sunday afternoon, because if so he could get them on the guest list. Stanley asked four times if Angela would please stop forwarding email that has nothing to do with him.
There's only one email from Michael, for a change, and the subject header says "My Deepest Thanks" which is sufficiently weird to make Jim open it up.
It says "Dear Jan: I just wanted to thank you for expressing your touching appreciation for our branch via your presence at Casino Night. I know I speak for all my wonderful employees when I say that you are like the shining, asexual personification of corporate presence at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. Carol was telling me over breakfast this morning that she could sense your devotion to fiscal efficiency, and also that you had a nice suit. I will look forward to many more breakfast conversations with Carol about your business elan. Yours, Michael Scott. P.S. I would also enjoy breakfast conversations with you about Carol's savvy in the real estate industry! How do you feel about Carrow's?"
Jim notes that Michael still doesn't know how to use his address book.
Hi, it's Jim. They made Ryan do your job today, and I'm very sorry to say he's gotten peanut shells all over your desk. I tried to tell him that you're deathly allergic to peanuts and that just touching a spot where a peanut touched could send you into anaphylactic shock, but I don't think he believed me. I tried to convince him to answer the phone by saying "Dunder-Mifflin, this is Pam," but by that point he was just giving me a really weird look. I also don't think he liked it when I tried to give him advice on his solitaire game.
Dwight starts attracting attention by nine-thirty, and when Jim gets back from using his cellphone in the break room, Kevin and Creed are watching.
"I used to play Dungeons & Dragons in college," Kevin says.
"I used to play D&D in eighth grade," Dwight says. "Then I discovered the superior calculation power of a computer compared to a set of dice."
"I liked playing wizards."
"The complexity of the various magic systems in World of Warcraft versus that of first-edition D&D is like Jupiter compared to a ... peach pit."
"Once I played a girl wizard and I drew a picture of her in a really sexy outfit."
"They got sexy outfits on that thing?" Creed asks, pointing at the screen.
"Available through purchase or barter with fellow players," Dwight says.
"Can you get them like, mail order?"
"They are sold through Ebay and other online auction sites."
"What sizes do they come in? Do they make a Big and Tall size? I like a little extra support in the groin region."
Dwight and Kevin look at Creed. Jim gets up and goes to the breakroom again.
Hi, it's Jim. There is some seriously weird shit going on here today. For starters, Dwight brought in this computer game and when I asked him if he was worried about online identity theft, he told me that he had a plus-twelve against computer hackers. Also, Michael hasn't been in his office all morning, and I think he's on some kind of wild weekend bender with that realtor who looks like Jan. And -- um.... yeah. I don't really want to think about Michael having sex. Because -- ok, forget I said the word sex. Bye.
Michael gets in at noon, wearing sunglasses and a pink polo shirt under a navy suit. He's really disgustingly hyper, more than Jim could have possibly imagined, and he brings a box of donuts with him.
"What are these for?" Meredith asks.
"Breakfast! Of champions! Best way to start the day!" Michael says, making gun fingers at her. "Pow! Pow-pow!"
"It's noon," Angela says.
"Brunch! Is also an excellent way to start the day!"
"We already started our day," Oscar says. "At eight in the morning."
"Well, I started at ... seven," Michael says. "At home. In my home office. Telecommucando, my friend. The way of the future."
"What did you do?" Phyllis asks.
"Work," Michael says. "Boss stuff. District manager stuff. What did you do today, Phyllis?"
"I secured a six-month contract with a four-thousand student school district in Pittsburgh."
"Six months, Phyllis? I thought it was understood that the regional standard was now eight months."
"No, that's -- "
"Never mind," Michael says, waving his hands grandly. "I'm sure you'll do better tomorrow." He disappears into his office.
"It's six months for any contract with a client over the high-yield revenue minimum," Phyllis says sadly.
Jim rethinks his long-standing perception of Michael as a guy who really needs to get laid, and decides he should never get laid again.
Hi, it's Jim. I am now calling you from inside the men's restroom, which you may recall poking your head into at the Christmas party two years ago when Oscar dared you to. What you may not know is that since then it has been painted green which is ... really interesting. You may also not be aware of the fact that the sink second from the wall has a broken soap dispenser, which is a topic of endless discussion for the men of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. Also really interesting is the fact that I have now called you three times and not once have I mentioned anything about Friday night, which I think says something about my determination to maintain the status quo. Um, and the fact that you're not here either means the same thing, or that maybe you caught a bad cold over the weekend, or that you've run off to Borneo. Which I would not blame you for, based on the fact that you're getting a phone call from the men's restroom.
The office empties out a little after Michael gets there, everyone anxious to take their lunch. Kelly and Ryan go to the sandwich shop on the corner, Kelly clutching his arm and Ryan looking like he's being taken out to get shot. Five minutes later Ryan sneaks back in with a giant hoagie and eats it in the supply closet.
Jim keeps working, because he always likes to take his lunch late. He realizes that he takes his lunch late because Pam takes her lunch late, and Pam takes her lunch late because Roy always likes to work a couple of hours of overtime if he can manage it. "Saving for the condo," Roy will say, coming up at six-thirty and massaging his big meaty arms, although Jim notices Roy's trucks keep getting nicer every year. It's weird to think that his whole daily schedule revolves around some asshole who likes Larry the Cable Guy and drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon unironically.
He has like six different spreadsheets open, and he's been putting off making some cold calls because he doesn't want to tie his line up. That's stupid, because it's not like she doesn't have his cell phone number, and it's not like he's concentrating on the spreadsheets anyhow. Dwight is back at his game again, after a brief foray into productiveness, and chewing on his pen so hard that a little dribble of blue ink is staining his lip. Jim would not take a million bucks to tell him that.
He needs to do the spreadsheets though, or make the fucking calls, or something, because otherwise he'll remember the way she felt the first time he kissed her, or the second, or the way her silk dress was soft under his hands, and her skin beneath was even softer than that. He has phantom memories of her hair brushing his face, the smell of her neck when he kissed her there, the trembling breaths she took when he whispered her name in her ear. It was his fucking desk, and his fucking phone, and maybe he's going to have to transfer after all because he can't even sit here without getting half-hard and remembering how she tipped her head back and closed her eyes and just didn't say anything at all when he started to unzip her dress.
"Did you talk to her?" Stanley asks, over his shoulder. Jim jumps a mile.
"The client I referred to you. The one who needed samples of the robin's egg and the aquamarine."
"No. Not yet. Sorry."
Stanley gives him a blank look, and walks back to his desk. Jim takes a deep breath.
"This sucks," he says under his breath.
"That's what she said!" Michael says, coming out of his office.
Hi, it's .... look, you know who this is. And ... I'm going to stop calling you now. Because I think you're checking your messages from home, since the voicemail light on your phone isn't blinking anymore, so obviously you just don't want to talk to me. Or you're waiting for my lunch break. Which I'm taking at 1:15 today instead of 1:30, so if you want to call earlier that's ... OK, you know what, call me if you feel like it. Or don't. It's fine. Hope you're -- I'm sorry. Again.
When he hangs up, Dwight is looking at him from behind the file folder wall which he erected to give him better concentration during a solo night raid on a gold farm.
"Who was that."
"Um ... a client."
"No it wasn't. When you talk to clients you're always a submissive suck-up. That was passive-aggressive."
"Who is calling who a passive-aggressive suck-up?"
"When I talk to clients I am only aggressive. Passivity is not compatible with high-yield commission sales."
"You talking is not compatible with me keeping my lunch down."
"You haven't had lunch yet. Who were you talking to?"
"Um ... I slept with someone's mom and it's all awkward now."
"Whose mom? Angela's?"
"Why ... would I have slept with Angela's mom."
"She seems like the type of person who would have a hot mom."
"I've never even met Angela's mom."
"Angela's very youthful-looking, considering her age, so it's natural that her mother would share the same physical traits."
"Isn't Angela's mom dead? Didn't she have to go to the funeral a couple of years back and bitch about taking sick leave?"
"That particular type of blonde, Aryan beauty is especially noted for its dominant genetic tendencies."
"Angela isn't a natural blonde."
"If you want to think that."
"I know that."
"Really, Jim. What hard, physical, hands-on evidence do you have that none of Angela's body hair is naturally blonde?"
"I ... am so not going to go there."
"Was it Pam's mom?"
"That you slept with."
"Why -- what -- no. Why would you think that."
"You've met her."
"Yeah, once. She lives like three states away."
"But you would sleep with her if distance wasn't an factor."
"And if she weren't married, and weren't my -- Pam's -- mom."
"But you like moms."
"I'm very selective about my moms."
"I would think the no-marriage stipulation creates a significant obstacle to finding suitable moms."
"Oh, it does."
At that point the vending machine guy comes in pulling a hand-truck full of Diet Shasta Cola behind him and Dwight has to go correct him on his ergonomic lifting technique and Angela has to go tell Dwight that he isn't the safety officer. Jim kind of thinks that they both get off on the ensuing argument, and somehow that makes him feel lonely and depressed instead of amused and disgusted. Which really depresses him.
Hi, I'm on my lunch break now. It's 1:10, not 1:15, because I couldn't sit next to Dwight for another minute and listen to him yell at the people in his computer. I know way, way too much now about how not to operate a repeating crossbow, though oddly enough, not much about how to do it the right way.
So. I'm free if you want to call me.
He actually makes a couple of good sales after lunch, which is nice. He does accidentally call the office manager of a prominent law firm Pam instead of Pat, but it's still a win in his book. Even though Pat turned out to be a man.
Stanley uninstalls World of Warcraft while Dwight is in the bathroom. Jim tries to give Stanley a high-five of pranking-Dwight-solidarity, but Stanley just gives him another one of those blank looks, and snaps the CD in two. Then he asks Jim again if he's called the "robin's egg or aquamarine" lady.
Dwight blames Jim for the uninstall, and Jim doesn't bother to correct him.
Hi, I'm on my last break of the day. Did you know that breaks are fifteen minutes long because cigarette lobbyists figured out that was exactly the length of time needed to smoke two cigarettes? OK, I made that up, but it's actually plausible. I bet I could get that into the Wikipedia and someone would believe me. Which begs the question of why I would be spending my afternoon making up lies and putting them into the Wikipedia, and the answer is either a) I am very bored, or b) I desperately need distraction from more serious thoughts, with the secret answer being c) both.
OK. Listen. I don't know if you're getting these or not, so I'm just going to say ... I'm not sorry. I mean, I am sorry. But I'm also not sorry. If you know what I mean. God, I really hope you know what I mean.
Michael decides at four o'clock that the American office worker doesn't get enough exercise. Stanley points out that they're not paid to exercise. Dwight is still pissed off about the World of Warcraft thing, because Kevin ratted Stanley out, and enthusiastically supports Michael. Jim has a heart attack and dies from not-surprise.
So that's why he finds himself jogging around the parking lot, sweat stains soaking under his second-best oxford shirt, cordovan shoes coming untied. Dwight is power-walking next to Angela, both of them wearing identical expressions of utterly terrifying resolve. Phyllis and Meredith are dawdling near the back, while Kelly complains to Ryan that her stilettos are killing her. Stanley leans up against the building, arms folded.
Jim doesn't really mind taking a run, and wonders why he didn't think of it before. In college that was always the best way to clear his head, jumping the fence by the track and jogging a couple of miles before breakfast. Usually not in office attire, but whatever, it's only his second-best shirt. He can feel some of the tension in his neck coming loose, and he starts to relax for the first time that day just before he sees Roy come out of the warehouse.
"What the fuck?" Roy asks.
Jim wants to think of a snappy comeback, but he just says "Michael."
Roy smirks. ""Dunder-Mifflin P.E.? You guys should get little shirts made up."
Jim shakes his head. He's about to pass Roy, and the words "Is Pam -- " are on the tip of his tongue.
"I wanted to form a bowling league," he says instead.
"Shit, I'd be up for that," Roy calls, as Jim goes by. "I got my own ball, a big sixteen-pounder."
I bet you do, Jim thinks.
On the second lap, Michael catches him up.
"This is great," Michael pants. "Teamwork -- exercise -- it's all -- part of -- a healthy office."
"Yup," Jim says.
"And non-competitive. Just because -- some of us are faster -- doesn't mean -- anything."
"Only that some of us will be eaten by lions and some of us will not," Dwight says from somewhere behind them. Michael gets a pained look.
"I mean -- I don't have to be resentful -- of you running faster than me -- since you have a longer natural stride."
"Yup," Jim says again.
"Not that height says -- anything about a person. Just like -- IQ score -- does not correlate with -- intelligence."
"IQ tests are geared toward the spatially-oriented and the mathematically skilled," Dwight calls. "The Shrutes, being aurally gifted, have historically been unable to prove their true intelligence via standardized testing."
"Orally gifted?" Toby asks.
Jim's cellphone begins to buzz in his pocket. He pulls it out, and Michael snatches it from his hand.
"No, Jim, this is family time. You can talk to -- your little friends -- after -- " he trails off with a wheeze, pressing his hand to his side.
"I think that might be a really important call," Jim says desperately, grabbing for the phone. Michael stops running, bends over, drops the phone, and vomits on it. The phone cracks in half and stops ringing.
"I don't think that should be purple," Angela says.
Hi, I'm calling from Dunder-Mifflin, following up on your conversation with my colleague. In regards to your questions about robin's egg blue or aquamarine, I'm going to be sending ... OK, Stanley went to the bathroom. And Michael dropped my cellphone and broke it and then puked on it. You're really missing a hell of a day here, Beesly. You're really ... shit, I hope you're not really sick. Or maybe I don't, I don't know. I just miss you. I guess I should have said that earlier in one of my nine million messages, but I don't know, maybe I thought you'd figure it out from me leaving you nine million messages in the first place. I really want to just talk to you. I guess if you wanted to talk to me you would have called, but you know me, hope springs eternal. Like I hope that Dwight will eventually stop drawing animated flipbooks of videogame characters and -- yes, robin's egg is slightly darker, but the aquamarine has that ... aqua, thing going on.
Ryan starts getting ready to go at five-thirty, and Jim wanders over, casually, like he needs a piece of Kleenex. He blows his nose hard.
"Hey, Ryan, did you, um, check Pam's messages today? I just wanted to make sure they got taken care of."
"Yeah, I wrote them down on the slips of paper and gave them to Michael. It was, uh, really complicated."
"No, no, I meant her personal voicemail, not the office one."
"Oh, there are two separate boxes? I just deleted whatever was in there all day."
"Even the new ones?"
"Um." Ryan looks embarrassed. "I guess, yeah. I thought it was all the same."
"OK, man, it's fine. I'm sure it wasn't anything important."
"Cool. Well, see you tomorrow."
"Have a good one."
Jim wanders back to his desk. Dwight left early, saying something about a guild obligation at home. Jim switches around a couple of the letters on Dwight's keyboard and turns the paper clips on his desk into one long chain, but it doesn't feel the same.
Hi, it's Jim. I left you a bunch of messages today, but I think Ryan deleted them all before you heard them. Or maybe you heard them, I don't know. In case you didn't: I am a rambling, needy jackass who can't entertain himself for eight hours without you around, and we work with a bunch of freaks. Also, I'm sorry about what happened Friday night, and I miss you, and I understand if you never want to talk to me again but I also kind of wish you'd just show up and we could run away to Borneo or Pittsburgh or something. That about sums it up. Also, Ryan left peanut shells all over your desk. Don't forget that.
He packs it in at six-thirty like always, after everyone else. Even Michael has gone, humming some obnoxious song Jim thinks is probably from American Idol. The janitor doesn't arrive until seven, so he spaces out at his desk for a few minutes. The quiet feels weird, because at this hour it's usually him and Pam, and Michael on the phone in his office, talking shit with Todd Packer or ordering stuff from the infomercials he watches on a portable TV when he thinks no one is looking. The buzz of the fluorescent lights is more annoying than ever, and the refrigerator hums on and off in the break room.
It's really a terrible place to spend a third of your life, he thinks. It's airless and windowless and crammed with all these sad people, doing crappy jobs day in and day out just to keep eating and having money to spend on mini golf and gas and frappuccinos. Which is why it makes a really twisted kind of sense that the best moment of his life happened here, Pam clinging to him and breathing in his ear "Jim, I think I'm in -- ", followed closely by the worst moment of his life, when she slipped off the desk and left him standing there, mouth and fly open, as she ran out the door.
One or the other of them is going to have to leave. He'd like to think that transferring would be the most chivalrous option, but really, it would probably be kinder to stick it out and force her to quit this hellhole. Then maybe she'd decide to quit the asshole too.
He can't make her fix her life, though, he thinks as he stands up and grabs his bag. He's tried everything he can, short of kidnapping her, or running over Roy with his own truck. This is as far as he can go. He heads out, flipping light switches as he goes, and thinks it might be for the last time.
She's leaning against his car when he gets downstairs, wearing jeans and a pink tank top. He remembers that top from when she first started, back when she used to dress cute and flirt with Roy when he came upstairs and wear perfume. He liked her then. He loves her now.
"Hey," she says as he walks up, her mouth a narrow, nervous line. She's wearing a little bit of pink lip gloss.
"Hey," he says. "How's the -- sickness."
She just looks at him.
"I left you a message," he says. "Um, a lot of messages. But I think -- "
"I got them," she says.
"Oh," he says. "Ryan says he deleted them."
"I know. He called me and told me to check my messages."
Jim feels a blush, wondering which one Ryan heard. If he's been listening in all day.
"Did he -- "
"He didn't have my password. He thought they might be from my mom."
"Did you -- think they were from your mom?"
This is beginning to feel like the stupidest conversation in the history of stupid conversations. Jim has worked at Dunder-Mifflin long enough for that to mean something, but he never thought he'd be having this kind of conversation with Pam.
"Listen -- "
"Jim. I'm not -- I'm not sorry. I don't know how I feel yet."
He doesn't say anything.
"I was sixteen when I met Roy. He's the only guy I've ever slept with. There's a lot -- "
"I know -- "
"No, you don't know. You've had -- girlfriends, and one-night stands, and done your guy thing. Whatever. And my whole future, my whole life, has been Roy since I was sixteen years old."
"You're right," he says. "I have no idea. And I guess I -- I shouldn't have presumed I knew you -- "
"You know me," she says, very quietly. "Better than -- that's why -- " Her voice breaks a little, and he wants to hold her so bad, he's clenching his teeth to stay still.
"I have to think, OK? You can't just tear down my whole world on Friday night and expect I'm going to be OK about it on Monday." Tears are running down her face now. "I mean, tear down in the nicest possible way, but I'm still fairly rocked over here."
She brushes at her cheek. "OK, second-nicest. Your technique, Halpert -- "
"What about my technique?" he says, daring a smile.
"Could stand a little practice."
"And how do you propose I get this practice?"
She hitches in a little breath, looking directly at him. He feels like his heart is going to strangle him.
"Jim ... "
"I'm sorry," he says. "Out of line."
She darts a look around the parking lot. The janitor is pulling up, but otherwise it's empty.
"Was that really the best you got?"
"I was distracted," he says, leaning in a little.
"By what?" she asks.
"Well," he says, taking a step forward. "That was a very nice dress you were wearing."
"Really?" she asks. "What did you like about it?"
He leans down, close enough to feel her breath on his face. "Hm," he says.
"Blue is my favorite color."
"That's sort of an impersonal answer. Anything else you liked?"
He leans in, all the way. "I guess I liked the fact that it was on you."
She smiles, quick and bright, and he kisses her softly. He tastes her lip gloss, and then it's all Pam, sweet and a little spicy. He brings a careful hand up to the back of her head, and with the other finds her hand. It's warm, and she squeezes back.
He wants it to go on forever, but somehow he's learned the way this works. He breaks it off after a minute, leaning back, and his heart leaps to feel her following him, not wanting to let him go.
"Think about it," he says. "Take some time. I understand."
She smiles, closing her eyes, and lets go of his hand. He kisses her once on the forehead, then goes to the driver's side of his car.
"Jim," she says, as he pulls open the door.
"I don't see the attraction."
"Well," he says, getting into the car. "It's pretty close to Australia. Which I happen to have a couple of tickets to, round about early June. So there's that."
Her mouth opens in surprise, and she gives him a quick, serious look.
"Oh, and Beesly," he says.
"Get off my car."
She smiles again, and keeps smiling as he drives away.
Hi. It's me. I just wanted to call, because I was disturbed by the fact that you were not well-versed in the wonders of Borneo. How you can call yourself a well-educated person and not know that Borneo is the third-largest island in the world is really beyond my comprehension. Also, it's home to 15,000 species of flowering plants, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, and 420 species of resident birds, in case you didn't know. This includes, of course, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and, my personal favorite, the Clouded Leopard. All of these fascinating facts and more can be found at the Wikipedia, which as we've established is a hotbed of lies perpetrated by bored paper salesmen, so for all I know the Clouded Leopard is a crock of shit. But I like to think that it's there, lurking somewhere in the rainforests of Borneo, doing whatever Clouded Leopards do in their spare time. I also like to think that you'll be back at work tomorrow, and that maybe we can have some further discussion of my "technique." I just did airquotes there, by the way. But if you're not ... I understand. Getting over a nanobot infestation can be nasty.
Pam is at work the next day. She wears blue.