Chapter summary: In the movies, it's about grand gestures, riding off into the sunset, dying of heartache. In Scranton, it's about freerange dust bunnies and the same dinner for three days in a row.


When you fall out of love, when your relationship ends, there are hundreds, thousands even, of examples at your fingertips for how you are supposed to feel. You can instantly be a part of a community, wallowing in the experience: melancholy, maudlin, relieved, the odd celebratory keying of the ex-'s car. Poems, music, art or whatever passion inspires, it's out there somewhere.

No one writes songs about a half gallon of milk that always reaches its expiration date before you finish it. For Pam, the hundred little details were far more troubling than her heart ever was.

The end had gone more or less like she told the cameras. When she finally called the wedding off, it wasn't because of a fight, or anything so dramatic. Pam had woken up one morning, and she had just been done with it, and though Roy hadn't been, nearly a decade had faded out of her life on a whisper.

Living alone was lonely sometimes, and a little scary, but she wasn't holding on. She wasn't trying to maintain her life with a Roy-shaped void in it. She moved on, sometimes fiercely, and if anyone other than her mother had cared enough to ask, she could have listed all the ways that her life was different now – ways that her life was better now. Pam filled up her new space with her old things, spreading out items that had once been bunched together, but there were spaces in her life like there were spaces between the pictures on the top of her bookshelf. All this space waiting to be filled, and every time she stopped being vigilant, things snuck up on her.

After over a month of defrosted wedding food, yes Pam had gone a little crazy and over-shopped, but now she had a freezer perpetually full of frozen vegetables because she never seemed to remember that a bag of peas would last her a whole week. Now that she wasn't worried about ruining someone else's dinner, she felt free to spread her wings and cook new things, or to use ingredients that Roy hadn't liked, but rather than scaling down the recipes, she frequently still made enough for Roy's much larger appetite, and had leftovers for days. French cuisine didn't reheat much better than the chicken and fish had.

It's not like Pam was a helpless flower, incapable of taking care of herself, but there were so many things that she hadn't had to keep track of as half a couple. Recovering from years of economies of scale was harder than it looked on paper. Some things, like taking out the trash, were easy, but others took effort. Suddenly she had to remember to get her oil changed, when for years it hadn't been on her radar because it was one of the things that Roy claimed as his.

And of course, Roy was still just there. She hadn't been trapped in a loveless relationship. She didn't hate him. It was tempting sometimes to rewrite history. It would have been easy to say that she'd just been waiting for an excuse to leave, when Jim had said he was in love with her, when he'd kissed her, but that wasn't true. It had been rough for a couple of weeks, but now Pam still saw Roy every day, more or less. As more time passed they were…comfortable again. Comfortable in a way that she and Jim had been… before. Some days it was hard to remember why Roy had seemed so wrong, like he couldn't be forever, because even as just friends, Jim had seemed like forever. But then Jim was gone, and being gone couldn't be right, and Roy was there. As time passed, Pam sometimes had to remind herself not to push up on her toes and leave a kiss on his cheek, had to remind herself to say "hey" instead of "hey, babe" because she didn't mean it that way, not anymore.

When she was being lulled into complacency by prime-time television, sometimes she'd pick up the phone to tell someone something, but there was no one to tell, so she'd set it back down. She'd never called Roy to share silly things. He had been utilitarian at best on the phone, even in high school, and then later, he'd always been there to turn around and talk in person. Calling Jim about American Idol was both too big and too small, so she sat around with the spaces in her apartment and the spaces in her life, and waited for time to fill them in.