Jim eases himself down, sliding down the wall to sit on the cold tile floor next to Dwight. He lets out a soft exhale as he sits down. “Hey, um,” he begins, almost hesitant to share this part of him, but acknowledging how hurt the other man must be. “Did I ever tell you why I left Scranton?”
Dwight’s only response is his continued keening followed by low mumblings.
“Yeah, I didn’t think I had.” Jim sighs and looks at his hands. “Well, it was all about Pam.
Jim knows the pain that Dwight is feeling. He felt it too long himself after Pam’s “I can’t.”
He pauses as Dwight mutters incoherently.
“Yeah, I mean, she was with Roy and uh, I just couldn’t take it. I mean, I lost it, Dwight. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Weird stuff, like food, had no taste.” He feels a tightness starting in his chest just at the memory of it. Jim shakes his head. “So my solution was to move away. It was awful.” He glances at the huddled figure on his right. “And it is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And that includes you.”
Jim sits still for another second, awash in memories before standing back up and making his way back up the stairs to the office. Each moment is seared in his memory.
He had arrived in Stamford with a car full of his stuff and a bruised heart. When he left Scranton, his roommate, Mark, had asked him, “Why are you leaving? Over her?” He couldn’t understand it and Jim couldn’t explain to him the agony over being rejected, twice, in the same night by the girl for whom he had fallen so hard. He couldn’t explain that he felt chased here, haunted by two little words.
“You knew I was leaving soon anyway. The transfer, remember?” He had attempted to answer.
“Yeah, but what about Australia? What about the rest of the summer? Remember our plans for all those road trips?”
“I just can’t, man. I can’t stay here any longer.” Every street held her presence for him. He couldn’t stand the thought of walking into work and seeing her every day, so he had used the vacation time that should have been his trip to Australia and packed instead, telling Jan he was eager to start at the new branch.
For him, that whole summer really felt like a blur—he knew he wasn’t eating enough, wasn’t sleeping enough, wasn’t taking care of himself enough, but he couldn’t bring himself to change that. He showed up every day for work, he made his sales calls and then he went home, back to an empty apartment. He arrived early and left late, all in an attempt to think as little as possible about what he didn’t have—or more accurately, who he didn’t have. He even gave up his trusty ham and cheese sandwich, deciding to try tuna for a while, to help break the association with Scranton and his old life.
Sometimes at night, he opened up his email and sat at his computer, looking at the new message. He wanted to write to her, to see what was going on in Scranton in his life. Kevin had emailed him about their fantasy football league. The postscript at the end of the emailed made his heart stutter—“Oh yeah, Pam’s not engaged anymore. She and Roy broke it off a few weeks after you left.” When he received that email, he dared to let himself hope. But days passed and Pam didn’t call and Jim had to give up on that dream, yet again. It had felt like leaving Scranton all over again.
He dreamed about her soft “I can’t” utterances until they slurred together into a medley of taunts that followed him wherever he went. Ican’t make new friends at work, he thought. Ican’t live without her. Ican’t forget her.
Then, one day when autumn seemed to finally arrive and a slight chill swept over the air, Jim woke up one morning feeling pangs of hunger. He felt the tight band across his chest ease, just a little. He didn’t know why and he didn’t know how, but he was feeling better. The muted Ican’ts that had followed him from Scranton had slowly faded each day until today, when they had disappeared.
The cameras were back, summer was over and he was ready to start living again.
Trying to shake himself from his memories, Jim exits the stairwell, hands stuffed in his pockets. Dwight’s pain had struck him, forced him to revisit memories he would rather be long forgotten. Pushing open the door to the office, he strides in forcefully and immediately sees her, a balm to the bruises of his memories. She is standing, a sheath of papers in her hand and looks up at his entrance.
“Hey, I was thinking about dinner…”
He grabs her and kisses her, trying to convey the depths of his feelings, hoping she can erase the misery he felt. His fingers tangle in her hair and he breathes in deeply the fresh scent of her. Her warmth in his arms chases away any lingering coldness from the stairwell and he begins to feel his heart equilibrate to a more normal rhythm. She’s here. They’re together. Those months apart recede to only a bad memory, a small fragment of his life. In that kiss he feels the rest of their life together stretching forward, and he wants to bottle up this moment, these feelings, forever. We can, he thinks.
When he breaks away, she’s a bit flushed. She glances shyly at the rest of the office, but he refuses to feel embarrassed. “Uh dinner, let’s see…” He pulls himself away. “Maybe we should try the new Italian place by the dry cleaner’s.”
He strolls back to his desk, ready to do some work. A few minutes later, Dwight walks him, head held high, picking up the phone to make a sales call. When Dwight pulls out his ruler and runs it along the space between the desks, knocking off several of Jim’s folders, Jim smiles at that.
“Yep,” Jim repeats to the camera later, “I’m very passionate about Italian food. In fact, um, I’m in love with Italian food.”