“Is it weird that I kind of miss the cameras?”
Jim glances over across the break room table at her, smirking into his pudding cup at the celery stick poking out of her mouth like a green cigar and the only thought that comes to mind is how many ways she can make him smile. He keeps reminding himself that there couldn’t be more, but she has a habit of proving him wrong.
“I know. I have no one to make faces at when Michael is being… Michael.”
Pam dips a neon orange baby carrot into her Ranch dressing and he suddenly has a flashback of 8th grade cafeteria and stilted conversations with his crush over miniature milk cartons and tater-tots.
“Just look at me instead, I can be the camera. Okay…” she shakes her hair over her shoulder and forms her hands into a box-like blob around her eyes, he guesses in what’s supposed to mime a camera. “Go.”
“No, it’s all wrong. It’s just not the same. The camera has a red light when it’s recording and it’s really throwing me off.” Jim fake-pouts and Pam giggles.
Without a word Pam holds up a red M&M off to the side, near her cheek.
Jim kisses her on the nose and murmurs, “see if the cameras were here I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
“Now let that simmer until all the water is gone,” Pam instructs over Jim’s shoulder, lining up her fingers with his on the wooden spoon’s handle as it circulates around the pot.
Jim peers down skeptically into the cranberries.
“Are they supposed to be all foamy like that?”
Pam rolls her eyes. “Yes, Martha Stewart, they’re supposed to be ‘all foamy like that’.” Pam pauses and grins to herself, a plan for retaliation from earlier forming in her head, “Actually it kind of reminds me of the story behind this painting we’re studying in my art class. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.”
Jim leans his back against her countertop, crossing his forearms across his chest. He’d rolled his sleeves up to his elbows once the kitchen had gotten too hot and she’s resisting the urge to brush her fingertips along the soft hair there, still bronzed by the summer sun.
“How does it remind you of that?”
“Well you know how in Roman mythology all the gods keep vying for the power to control Mount Olympus, right? Well, the story goes that Cronus, who was the son of Uranus that was the current ruler of the gods, was hired as sort of a celestial hit man by his mother to grab the reigns and dethrone his father.”
She heard Jim mutter Momma’s boy hidden in the folds of a smirk, but she ignored him.
“Anyway, only Cronus would agree to do the deed, so he castrated Uranus and threw his-“
“Okay!” Jim exclaimed, throwing up his hands into the air to stop her, “I think I’ve heard enough.”
“- into the sea, and Venus, fully formed, was created from the bloody foam.” Pam finished with the peppy quirk of her head and a smile. He knows this is payback from earlier when he’d teased her about how she couldn’t stand those medical documentaries on the Discovery channel because they made her stomach feel all unsteady.
“Cheery story. You should tell it at parties. Especially bachelor parties so, you know, they know what they’re up against.”
Pam giggled into her oven mitt as she set aside the yams.
“So, wait.” Jim paused in his stirring of the cranberries, “You’re saying that the pink foam reminds you of…” He dropped the spoon as if he’d been burned. “I elect you cranberry stirrer from hence forth.”
“Ooh, does this position come with a shiny crown?”
“No but there is an awesome scepter.”
They laugh the cold out of the car on the way to her parent’s house and her toes bump against his under the dinner table among turkey and family stories and toasts to a better football season.
They’re watching It Happened One Night on one of her old VHS tapes one midnight in December and because she’s all tangled up in fuzzy blankets and his arms it takes him awhile to realize that she’s drifted off to sleep, the screen playing black and white silhouettes on the plane of her cheeks. There are popcorn kernels lying lifelessly on her chest as if they had tried desperately to make the journey to her mouth but passed out from exhaustion, quest unfinished. The rest of the apartment is muted in darkness; the furniture indistinct figures out of the corner of his eye and the illuminating street light from outside glowing the window a pale and ghostly white. There’s an easel in the living room and a shadowy orb on the arm chair that he knows is his basketball, and there are his shoes haphazardly kicked off next to the door beside her flats that, in contrast, are neatly lined up perpendicular with the wall.
There’s something about seeing their belongings casually flung together from the ordinary jostle of life as a couple that tweaks a funny feeling in his gut. Because he’d imagined it for so many years, the just being with her in the most everyday way, yet it still had snuck up on him.
Jim shifts as subtly as possible without disturbing her current state to readjust his arm. He’s just trying to decide whether to leave her here on the couch for the night or sling her up and over and into bed, when she tugs him closer unconsciously in her sleep.
Couch it is.
Pam has another art show and when he sees himself blatantly transcribed into pencil shavings and ink smudges, he blushes the shade of the carnations in his hand. Pam kisses him on the cheek, whispering promises for being such a good boyfriend into his ear, and introduces him around to all her artsy friends she knows from class like he’s the artwork she’s really proud of.
His face is crimson now.
“Did I tell you I’m really glad we’re splitting up the holidays between my parents and yours?”
They’re shopping in Macy’s for a sweater that her dad will like and he’s leaning over her shoulder, pretending to examine the one on the hanger in front of her. Her shoulder presses flush against his chest; all he sees is the sparkle of twinkle lights in the mall display and the sweep of her cheek as it convenes with her neck, but he’s not one to complain about the view.
“Does that have anything to do with the fact that it means you can get Christmas and Hanukah presents?”
Pam pauses, feeling the bounce of his chest as he laughs against her spine.
“Maybe. But mostly because I love your family and I love who you are around them and… yeah.” Pam smiles, he can hear it in her voice because his ears can taste the sway of sweetness there. “That’s mostly it.”
They end up buying the sweater with evergreen and off-white stripes and she hums Christmas carols as they walk back to the car through the parking lot amid angry honks and holiday mania.
Pam swings the red bag in one hand as the other gets caught up in the fabric folds of Jim’s gloves and she thinks she can smell snow.
“Duct tape makes everything better.”
It’s what Jim says as he presses a small strip of the metallic tape along the base of her cast.
He knows that this is Dwight’s fault some how. Because there had been a commotion of: “This shelf is defective, it must be removed from the premises immediately,” just before a loud crash and her scream. It had been one of the scariest ten seconds of his life, even more than when he’d been rear-ended in college or that time he thought he’d lost his mom’s wedding ring down the sink when he was six, as he’d run and tore open the door, finding her cradling her arm and glaring at Dwight as he attempted to make a sling out of his shirt.
But she was Pam so she won’t blame Dwight, mostly because she knows Jim would probably murder him via prank. So he makes cartoonish doodles on her cast as she giggles, glancing over at the red mark on Thursday of next week, where Jim had written D-day in big block letters and drawn tiny men storming the beach of the Island of Medical Plaster.
Her thumb sticks out at an odd angle and it makes it difficult to type, so every once and a while she’ll hold up her injured arm and pout and Jim will do something funny to make her forget.
“You have mustard on your shirt.”
Jim gives her the yes I know, ask me how look and glares in Andy’s general direction.
“There are- no words that could explain how this…” he gestures emphatically to the front of his dress shirt. “… came to be. No words. Webster will be shocked and dismayed.”
Pam nods definitively and by the end of the day Andy’s shirt has a bright red splotch of ketchup and she is shaking her head.
“Next time you should really check to make sure that the cap is closed before you do that. Never know when someone forgot to screw the lid back on.”
Pam watches as a drip of cherry red syrup trails down Jim’s chin, his mouth hanging open as the contents of the chocolate in his mouth drains out unchecked.
“Are you having a stroke or something?”
Jim chokes once, as if he just came back into reality, and wheezes.
“No, just… wasn’t expecting- that.”
Pam shrugged. “Well I think it makes sense. Why? Do you- not- want to?” she glances over at him nervously.
“No, no, no, of course I want to,” Jim rushes to assure her, “So us moving in together… is that my Valentine’s Day present?”
Pam smiles slowly. “No, my sparkling personality and bathroom-cleaning abilities are. Plus, you know, hello? My undying devotion until eternity. Sorry, tried to get it gift wrapped but they couldn’t find a box big enough or a bow that matched.”
The grocery store aisle’s shelves reflect bright shapes in cans and plastic containers back to the other half under the harsh light of florescent, making for a cove of heady colors and laughter bouncing side to side.
“Have you even ever had spam?”
“Because if you had you wouldn’t even be suggesting making some for dinner.”
“That gross huh?”
“It’s like a deformed radioactive pig and a piece of rubber had offspring and they canned it for meat.”
“Wow, Beesly. Radioactive pig? Like Spiderman? Can one of these rubber swines fly?”
“And leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s quite scary.”
“I think that’s Superman.”
“Well I think you’re a dork for knowing that.”
They push the cart around the corner in a collective effort as they stand shoulder to shoulder, pointing out necessities like bread and beer and milk. Jim insists on deli ham (for his lunch), Pam counters with a demand for mint chocolate ice cream (her favorite, but he already knew that) and even though it would probably be more efficient to split up and meet again at the register it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as joking around for an hour, rolling up and down the aisles.
Jim takes her hand in his in the frozen foods section (“I’m cold” he complains with a barely shaded smirk) and neither of them end up letting go.
Their apartment has one bathroom and one kitchen and one bedroom but it has two closets (hers and his) and they exchange their two full mattresses for one queen size. There’s an elderly woman next door who makes lemonade for them when they first move in and charms them with stories of World War II and finally having an excuse to not wear stocking under her skirts. Now they have a reason if Michael ever asks why they never throw a housewarming party: they have to keep the noise down. (But they do have a party and Michael isn’t invited. The rest of the office understands).
Their balcony over looks the courtyard and a tiny flowerbed and Jim sometimes finds her there in the early hours of the morning, wrapped tightly in a blanket with her eyes closed to the night sky, thinking.
It takes them two weeks, but they christen every room. Twice.
The cold is getting to her. Pam misses the seep of summer, the feel of grass between her toes, the blue of the sky instead of this constant white white white that blends in with the horizon of snow and bare trees made of wire. She’s about to stow away in a plane headed to the Bahamas, but then a shimmer catches her eye.
A series of bubbles float towards reception, one of them lighting on her keyboard, all soapy and iridescent. She glances over and Jim is smiling at his computer screen, pretending not to see her eying him, amused. Pam carefully scoops one into her palm and sets it loose, watching it drift out towards the door and the freedom beyond. She doesn’t think bubbles can freeze.
<pbeesly> I think we have a bubble fairy in the office
<jhalpert> Oh, really? Is he friendly? I think he might chat with Dwight’s bobble heads at night
<pbeesly> And what do these two groups converse about?
<jhalpert> Being tiny mostly. And the relative evil-o-meter rating of Angela and Michael.
<pbeesly> Thank you for the bubbles Jim
<jhalpert> It’s what I’m here for
Pam pauses at the doorway to their bedroom, giggling silently at the man lying in their bed. His hair is all mussed, a magazine propped open on his thighs and his reading glasses slipping down to the bridge of his nose as he squints at the small text. Sometimes she wonders how this had become the life she’s living instead of that miniature dollhouse version that played out plastic and fake in her head every night.
“The cameras are coming back.” She says by way of announcing her presence, skipping into the open space of the room. Jim glances up at her and sighs, folding his reading material onto the night table.
“Couldn’t last forever, I guess.”
Pam slips under the covers beside him, her head ending up on his chest, her curls cascading in a ginger waterfall of hair, Jim trying hard not to sneeze every time one wisps near his nose. They fall asleep like that; the television playing the news softly in the background, the bedside lamp glowing brightly and the world still spinning on, up and out.