One last letter

1999 had looked like being my best year ever. Every business deal I touched turned up gold. The business my wife had struggled with for several years finally took off. And our daughter got married. We sold our house at a big profit and downsized into a cute beachside cottage. Wow! It looks like my life revolves around money and investments. And perhaps it did back then. But please believe there are other things about that time of my life I could share. I just choose not to. What happened to me was very hard for my family to deal with also.

On August 11 of that year, there was a solar eclipse visible from the UK, and it was close to total in the far south of England. We moved into the beach cottage in May and decided to have the official housewarming party on the day of the eclipse. And the weather was perfect. Everything was perfect: the food, the wine, the company. My daughter wasn’t drinking, which was most unlike her, so I wondered if she was already pregnant – but nothing was said, so I didn’t ask.

Sometime later that afternoon, I was stricken with a horrible panic and felt like the world was about to end. It’s the only way to describe how I felt. I went back into the house to lie down on my bed. Through the open window, I could hear the happy sounds of the party on the patio; and I could feel the warm summer breeze. But a dark cloud had moved over my world and I shivered and shuddered as one dark thought after another went through my head.

I spent the rest of the day in bed. My wife and daughter just assumed I’d had too much to drink. I spent the next day in bed too, and everyone just assumed I was hungover. My wife slept in the spare bedroom which doubled as her sewing room. The following day, I got up – but I called in sick at work for the remainder of the week. Then my wife was concerned – because she had seen me have a nervous breakdown before and worried that was where I was again headed. But by the weekend I had rallied and was looking happier, so she dropped the subject and I went back to work as normal on Monday – although I spent most of the day trying to find a reason to make a trip to Seattle rather than getting any real work done.

After dinner on that Monday, I took a nap in my favorite armchair. My wife had gone out with a girlfriend so I wasn’t disturbed. I dreamed of Volunteer Park in Seattle and felt myself huffing and puffing a bit as I climbed the stairs inside the water tower. Then I walked back down Fifteenth Avenue to Capitol Hill and went into the Starbucks where I ordered a tall cappuccino and a lemon-poppyseed muffin and sat in my usual seat. But then I search in a bag and took out a little hand-held PC – and I realized I was in someone else’s dream. A woman’s hands opened up what I recognized to be a Psion-5. I had though of buying one myself, but didn’t know what I might have used it for. (If WiFi had been around back then, it probably would have sold better – as it was, it was perhaps a bit too ahead of its time.)

The hands started up the word processor application and then stopped for a sip of coffee and bite of muffin. Still dreaming, I stared at the blank screen like you do when you are not sure what it is you want to write.

“Why don’t you write me a letter?” I suggested. “The address you have will be good until the end of August. So you’ll need to post it very soon if I’m to receive it.”

I then woke up.

In the last week of August, I got a letter from America.

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