Pam never thought of herself as a romantic, even though most women are known to be suckers for the occasional box of candy hearts or piece of jewelry. She didn’t melt when Roy rarely whispered “I love you” in her ear, even though it seemed foreign to her. She didn’t squeal when she got an unexpected Valentine’s Day gift or flowers for her birthday, even though those things almost never occurred. She didn’t impulsively kiss a stranger who gave up their spot in line during the holidays so she could buy the last pair of cashmere gloves. And she definitely didn’t send Roy cheesy cards on their anniversary, expressing her forbidden and undying love. No, she never really bought all of that desperately-in-love-can't-be-without-you schmaltz.
That was until she met Jim Halpert.
That’s when she started to look forward to the holidays. If only to see him smile in his extra special way as he wished her a Merry Christmas or Happy Valentine’s Day before he departed. She didn’t necessarily need a gift, but Jim always seemed to spring one on her at the perfect moment. She would think that the day could not possibly get any worse, and then came a ray of sunshine to the counter of her desk.
He would lean against it, pressing his tie down to his body so it didn’t stick up, and then flash her one of his amazing smiles while handing her a perfectly wrapped gift. His eyes would light up as she tore off the paper, a flush of red coming shyly over his cheeks as she thanked him wholeheartedly. She could tell it made him happy to give her hilarious cards or sentimental objects, but it made her happier to just know that he cared. He could get her coal every year and she would appreciate it. Because at least there would be the thought.
However, she got used to going home to Roy everyday, even though she would want to stay at the office all night, waiting for Jim to get bored and come pay her a visit at her desk. Sometimes she’d find herself waking up before her alarm, just so she could go into work. Even if they didn’t talk, although they always did, at least she’d get to see him, watching him laugh as he listened intently to Toby’s joke in the break room or snicker quietly to himself as he unplugged the jack to Dwight’s phone while he was using the bathroom.
She found herself longing for Jim to come out and say something about that nagging feeling inside both of them, but he never did. Instead, he let the moment pass them by on the booze cruise while she sat waiting for some sort of proclamation. He let her denounce their “first date” while she defensively claimed that they had swayed, not danced. He let her pass up her opportunity to be something slightly close to an artist in New York, something she’d wanted since she was a little girl. The thing was that while he let all those moments go, so did she. And that’s why she never blamed him for it. But there was one moment he refused to let go, and she was definitely not prepared for a ball of courage to suddenly rise within him.
She found it impossible to speak when those words finally sprouted from his mouth, but eventually she found all of the wrong words. All she could recall later was something about “I can’t” and misinterpretation. But she remembered Jim’s every move, every word, every tear. She hurt him, and she could clearly see it. And it echoed in her head for every second from then on.
But he didn’t give up like she would have. He came back, willing to put it all on the line again. Willing to sacrifice everything so that maybe he could have another chance. He pressed their lips together, wrapping his arms securely around her and waited for her to respond. She told herself no, she shouldn’t be doing this, but eventually sunk in. She soaked in the feel of his body against her, his hands pushed to her back, pulling her closer to him with every stolen breath. She remembers the way his lips felt against hers, the way he leaned into her even after she began pushing him away. And the way she let him leave again, running her hand over his for as long as she could before looking him in the eyes and letting a tear finally flow down her cheek as he closed the door behind him.
Every time she looked over at Ryan sitting in his desk she felt like calling him, telling him that she did love him, and she would do anything to win him back. She never realized how important he was to her until she was without him. But that’s how it always seems to work. Now that she’d broken up with Roy, she noticed him there more than usual, constantly telling her nice things, asking for her advice and making her laugh. She wasn’t trying to make him fix his ways and then come back when she broke off the engagement, she was telling him they wouldn’t work. Ever.
And the second she said the words, as she broke one man’s heart, Jim’s face crawled into her mind. It was as if he was helping the words out of her mouth, and she knew that he would be proud to know that she finally did it. She freed herself.
After that, she had just assumed that she and Jim would be together. Then she realized that Jim wouldn’t just show up at the office after hearing the news and sweep her off of her feet. He may have been almost perfect, but he was certainly no superhero.
He was gone for what seemed like an eternity, and she was left to herself. Maybe that’s what she needed, though. She’d never really been alone before. There was her family for the first half of her life, and when she met Roy, childhood and adulthood just sort of meshed together. She felt comfortable in her shiny new apartment, fixing everything herself, setting up her electrical units and sleeping in her own bed at night. She no longer came home to a distant man at night, but instead to a few cold rooms that smelled like pine and dishwasher soap.
Karen. There were no bad vibes while they were greeting each other, nothing bad was secretly thought about her, and she certainly didn’t wish for her to quit after the Stamford employees began to drop like flies. Karen was as nice as the next girl, and befriending her was imminent. Pam wasn’t sure if Jim was alright with it or not, but she decided that he must be if he wanted things to work out between them. Between everyone. But when he looked at them giggling in the corner after seeing Kelly drag Ryan around the office all day, she saw the hurt in his eyes.
Then he came up behind her in the break room during lunch, waiting until Karen was out of sight, and all that she remembered came rushing back. The way he felt pressed against her, how his lips moved with hers as they gently kissed. This time there were new things to notice. His hands clutching her face, stroking her cheek as she pushed herself to the fridge behind her. His unruly hair between her fingers, flipping back up to its messy do as soon as her touch became absent. The way he smiled sweetly at her as soon as their mouths halted, laid a small kiss on the tip of her nose, and whispered “I love you” in her ear before he returned to his desk.
Maybe Pam never thought of herself as a romantic because she’d never had a chance to be one.