It was a hot and muggy afternoon in the basement and I wished I brought
more than the one bottle of cold beer down with me. I surveyed the
stacks of unlabeled boxes on the numerous shelves along both sides of
the cramped room with dismay. It was going to be a much more daunting
task than I originally anticipated, but the thought of how surprised and
delighted Lizzie would be when she found I had transferred the many
years of photos we had onto DVDs would make the effort well worth it. It
was a project she had talked about doing herself for years, but never
quite found the time.
Lizzie had gone to see Megan in New York for Parents' Week at NYU,
leaving me to myself for the next seven days. I couldn't go, due to a
very important account presentation I was working on.
"The deal is supposed to be closing next week," I told Lizzie. "It
should go smoothly, and it means a great deal of money to the company .
. . to us as well."
"I'm sure we would be very comfortable in our lives either way," Lizzie
"And I'm sure Megan will be fine without me. I know as long as you are
there, she won't even notice that her old man isn't."
"That's not true, Daniel!"
"You know Megan loves you more than me." I winked and then she smiled
and blew me a kiss.
"She loves you just fine, trust me," Lizzie said.
“And what about you,” I started, with a wolfish grin. “Will you
“You better hope so,” Lizzie said with her own devilish smile.
“And you better hope your daughter doesn’t take me to any fraternity
parties. They probably haven’t changed that much since we were in
Even though I knew Lizzie was having fun, her comment did make me think
twice about staying at home. “Maybe I should go with you after all . .
. what do you think?”
“Stay home and earn the bacon, my hero. You know my menu is off limits
to anyone but you.”
I grinned to myself and got back to the project at hand.
I started stacking boxes against the one clear wall in the room. I found
old clothes in the first, which I figured I could donate to goodwill and
piled them into one stack. Another couple of boxes contained a lot of
Megan's old toys, and nostalgia washed over me as I went through them.
How quickly time passed, I thought. My little girl was now all grown up
and attending college on the other side of the country.
I laughed at all the "As seen on TV" exercise equipment Lizzie and I had
purchased through the years, but used only a handful of times before
something newer and better grabbed our attention. Eventually we tallied
up all the money we spent on those "gimmicks," as we called them, and
figured it was better if we just joined a gym.
I came across my extensive collection of vinyl records and singles and
wondered if I should keep them or take them to a dealer. Maybe I could
donate them to the church or library. Or maybe I could make some quick
cash if I auctioned them off on eBay. I decided to keep them instead. I
finally pulled out the box with the photos; our wedding album nestled
atop two other albums. It really was such a beautiful wedding and Lizzie
had never looked more stunning. The first vacation we had taken was the
honeymoon cruise to Alaska; then two years later to Orlando, where we
did the whole Disneyworld and Universal Studios thing. Nothing really
fancy by any means, but we had some really good times. Since then, there
had been no other big trips, just little weekend getaways, as work began
to take over our lives.
The next box took me back even further than Megan's childhood. Withered
paperbacks and dusty trophies mingled with concert T-shirts and wall
posters from my teen years. Resting at the bottom of the box, I found my
old high school letterman's jacket, and though it still seemed to be in
great shape, it smelled like it should after having been in the box for
over two decades.
Underneath the jacket I found my senior yearbook. I couldn't remember
the last time I had seen it, but then I couldn't remember the last time
I had seen any of my old things. I wondered if my jacket would still fit
after all these years, so I set the yearbook down and tried it on. It
was a very snug fit. I smiled and shook my head. I certainly was not in
the same physical shape as I was back then. I was glad Lizzie wasn't
there to see me. She would have made some comment about us not even
using the gym membership as regularly as we should be.
As I struggled to remove the ill-fitted jacket, I knocked the yearbook
off the box, scattering envelopes across the floor. I wondered what they
were and tossed the jacket casually back into the box. I picked up the
envelopes and sat down.
Each one had the name "Danny" handwritten across the front, and I
instantly remembered who they were from: Jules.
Jules had been my high school sweetheart. We had completely adored each
other, and had no desire to see anyone else. I read the first card and
the letter that was inside, and remembered how much we had cared for
Happy memories flooded back to me.
I remembered a romantic picnic at the park when we had fed the ducks
pieces of our sandwiches, and drive-in movies on Friday nights when more
often than not we fell asleep in each other’s arms. Sometimes we would
climb outside my bedroom window and watch the sunset together. The
summer before senior year, we had gone to the state fair and I had won a
huge stuffed lion for her in the ring toss booth. I remembered the
senior prom when we had realized we… we… what?
Suddenly I drew a complete blank. I knew we talked about something, but
for the life of me, I had no idea what it was, though I had a strong
feeling it was very important. I shook my head and smiled to myself.
Guess I was getting old if I couldn’t remember that. I hoped this
wasn’t going to be a recurring problem.
I read the rest of the cards and still hadn’t a clue what they meant,
and then I began to wonder what happened to us. Did we break up? Had we
gone our separate ways after our relationship fizzled and died out?
Wasn’t that something I should remember? I then found it quite odd
that I couldn’t remember anything we did together after the prom. I
sat down on a crate and took a swallow of beer. I vaguely remembered the
couple of weeks between prom and graduation, but nothing of Jules. Why
was that? Where had she gone? Obviously we separated and just didn’t
see each other after the prom. But something seemed out of sorts.
Something in the back of my mind was protesting that thought.
I stood up and laughed. What was the big deal? Why was this bothering me
so much? Why was this now such a huge deal to me? A chill ran down my
spine and I suddenly felt agitated, restless, and claustrophobic. I had
to get out and get some fresh air.
Halfway up the stairs, I stumbled and scraped my knee against the wall,
causing pain to shoot up my leg. I cursed and made it upstairs and
outside into the back yard, and relished a lungful of fresh air. But
even that did not soothe the butterflies now taking over my stomach.
What was wrong with me? I no longer had any interest in working on the
photo project. I needed to get out and drive, maybe that would help
clear my head.
I went back inside the house and grabbed a jacket off the rack by the
front door, went outside to the car, got in and started driving. I drove
for a couple of hours, trying to remember things and then I realized I
couldn’t recall any events from the summer between high school and
UCLA. It was as if my memory had been wiped clean, but how could that
happen? It seemed the harder I tried to think, the more frustrated I
became. I headed back toward home. I was upset and also somewhat
frightened. I felt helpless, almost violated, as if part of my life had
been ripped away from me.
As I neared my driveway, I realized I wasn't ready to go home. I needed
a drink and remembered there was a small tavern a few blocks from the
house. I hadn't ever really been the bar type, even in college. I mostly
preferred the comfort and safety of my own home when I drank. But this
time I figured it was a chance I would take, a distraction I needed. If
I got too drunk, I could always just lock the car up and take a cab
home. I had a clean record and I intended to keep it that way.
There were plenty of parking spots in the lot, which was a good. I
disliked huge bar crowds and just wanted to have a few drinks without
being bothered by a lot of unruly drunks. I went inside and sat at the
counter at the end of the bar away from the door.
There were only four or five people I could see in the place, plus the
bartender; a couple was playing pool and three were engaged at the dart
board. No one was sitting at the bar.
"What'll you have?" the bartender asked, after I had made myself
"Whiskey and Coke. And make it a double, would you?"
"Any particular brand?"
"The one closest to you," I said.
The first drink went down easily enough, and I enjoyed the warmth as it
spread down my throat, throughout my stomach into the rest of my body. I
ordered a second drink, this time a single. As I sipped the bittersweet
concoction, my muscles began to let loose the tension that built up
I stared at the television set above the bar for a while and tried to
get interested in the soccer game on the screen. I tried to clear my
head, to think about nothing, but my mind kept going back to the void in
my past. I don't know how long I was staring at the television, but I
was startled by a voice beside me.
"My friend, you look about as distraught as I feel."
I hadn't noticed someone had sat down beside me. I turned my head to
look at the man. His brown hair was unkempt and his glasses slightly
smudged, his face unshaven and eyes bloodshot. It looked like he hadn't
slept in days.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you." He drained his drink in a
quick swallow, put the glass on the counter and gestured to the
bartender for a refill.
"No, that's okay, I'm fine," I said. "Are you okay? I don't mean to
sound rude or anything, but you don't look so good." I didn't really
want to start a conversation with a stranger while I was in my own funk,
but maybe talking to someone else about their problems would take my
mind off of my own.
"I've been better, yes. I have definitely had better days, better months
even, you know," he answered. He put his hand out. "Mathew, Mathew
"I'm Daniel," I said and shook his hand.
Mathew seemed friendly enough, though his voice had an edge to it, like
he was trying to keep his composure. I somehow got the feeling he really
needed to talk to someone.
"Nice to meet you."
"What are you drinking, Daniel?" he asked, and then signaled the
bartender before I could answer. "Get him another of what he's
"No, that's okay," I said. "That's not really necessary . . ."
"Nonsense," Mathew said. "I've been here for a couple of hours, and you
are the first person who has given me the time of day. Except for the
bartender, but he gets paid to do that."
"I guess some people are just less sociable than others. Others come to
bars just to drown their troubles away."
"Is that what you're doing? I know I am."
"Well, yeah, I guess I pretty much fall into that category," I said.
"So, uh . . .”
"What's my story?" Mathew asked and then answered before I could
acknowledge my interest. "My partner, whom I work with . . . I mean,
worked with, he was in a bad car accident. They just took him off of
"I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible." Suddenly my problems didn't
seem so big. "Were you close? I mean, friends as well as partners? What
do you do?"
“I’m a psychotherapist and researcher. We shared a practice . . ."
He took off his glasses and wiped his face with a napkin. The bartender
came by with our fresh drinks. Mathew thanked him with a five dollar
tip. He looked at me again. "Can I tell you something?"
"Sure, why not," I said, after all, he had just bought me a drink.
"We were working on a project, well, it was more his, and I think we
were on the verge of something good, and now . . . well, I am
embarrassed that maybe I'm not as distraught as I should be about his
death. Maybe I'm more worried about the future of our research. That
just doesn't seem right, does it?"
I was at a loss for words; almost uncomfortable about whether I should
agree or not, but the way he was looking at me was like he was asking
for permission to feel that way.
"Maybe you just need some time sort things out, you know? Put things in
the right perspective."
Mathew sipped his drink and then looked at himself in the mirror behind
the bar. I saw his reflection as he stared intently at himself, and then
his eyebrows rose, and he smiled and shrugged his shoulders slightly, as
if maybe something I said had made some sense.
"Maybe so, maybe so," he said softly. "That sounds exactly like
something I might have said to one of my patients. Bravo, my friend.
Unfortunately the project, I'm afraid, is beyond the help of one
person." Mathew took another sip, put his glass down and turned and
faced me. "But anyway, what about you Daniel, what is troubling you? You
have given me some very encouraging words, I feel obliged to return the
Mathew sounded so sincere that I found it easy to unload my problems on
him, and he listened with such attention that I felt I was actually his
patient and he was my therapist.
Over the next half hour I told him about my life and family and then
ultimately about what had brought me to the bar. He nodded every now and
then and after looking at the cards and the letters inside, he set them
back down on the counter in front of me. He then he looked at me point
blank with utter seriousness.
"So . . . Daniel. What exactly is it that you are looking for?"
"What do you mean?"
"You are searching for something. You want something, am I correct?"
This guy was good. It was as if he had read the thoughts I had earlier,
back in the basement storage room and knew what I had been thinking.
"What do I want? Well," I paused and thought for a moment. Then the
words tumbled out without hesitation. “There’s a whole piece of my
memory missing, a chunk of my life. I have no clue where it went or what
happened during that time, but I know it was important and I can’t
think of any reason for it to be gone. I have a gut feeling something is
not right, that it’s not just forgetting something. It’s more like
my memory has been erased . . . and it’s not of my own doing. I want
it back! I want to know what happened!” I said, then stopped talking
and finished my drink. I was rambling.
"You know, Daniel, maybe there is help for my project after all," Mathew
said, and all at once his eyes were starting to open wider, and his mood
changed. "Maybe we can help each other."
"I don't understand. How can anything I said help your project? Of
course, what would I know . . . I’m sure I didn’t make a lot of
sense and I know I’m just feeling sorry for myself more than anything
else." I was feeling a little better, though; perhaps hearing myself
talk out loud made things sound a lot less ominous than my mind was
making them out to be.
"Oh, but Daniel, that's where you are wrong. I believe that from what
you’ve told me, along with your reactions, that there may very well be
something amiss. You shouldn't take your feelings lightly. There is
resolution that needs to be brought into your life, and from my
experience, if you do not get this, you may have problems moving
I really didn’t understand what the hell he was talking about, and my
blank stare must have told him just that.
"Forgive my obvious shop-talk. I will try to put things in a different
way. Let me ask you, Daniel. Are you happy with how things are,
satisfied with the way your life has turned out?"
“Happy? Well, sure, as happy as I can be. I guess things have been
good for me, for my family,” I said. “And satisfied? Well, that’s
a good question. Is anybody really satisfied? Sure there are still
things I want to do with my life that I haven’t gotten around to yet.
But I am not unhappy, not really. But what if something that I can’t
remember has a bearing on where I am now? I don’t know, it’s just
really weird, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to explain
it to you, or even to myself exactly what I mean.”
I was frustrated and thankfully had to excuse myself briefly to use the
I splashed cold water on my face and looked at myself in the mirror,
mentally asking exactly what I was doing here. Here I was talking to a
complete stranger about personal details of my life. Was I that drunk?
What was it about the missing past that was making me so driven to find
out the details I couldn’t remember? What made it so important to me?
I racked my brain, trying to see if there was some glimmer, some hint of
an explanation, but there was nothing.
I suddenly felt self-conscious and wiped the moisture from my cheeks and
left before someone came in and wondered why I was staring at myself in
the mirror so intently.
When I returned a fresh drink waited for me. Mathew's whole composure
had changed to one of barely concealed excitement. He looked like he had
something extremely urgent to say, so I let him go ahead.
“Daniel, I believe I can help you find the answer you are looking
"I don't understand."
I listened as Mathew began to explain the project he and his partner had
been working on. Using techniques similar to hypnotherapy, they planned
to help memory loss and trauma patients recover clouded past events.
When Mathew began to get more technical, I shook my head with
exasperation. I held up my hands to stop him.
“It’s complicated to explain everything. Alex, my partner was a lot
better at putting things into layman’s terms than I ever could, but I
will tell you that basically, I would put you in a deep sleep and
through the use of specialized nutrients and specific chemical
compounds, help your subconscious break through whatever block your mind
has placed on your memory and allow you to access the missing events. If
successful, you would regain and retain that memory upon awakening."
"I'm sorry, but this is all too heavy for my brain to handle right now."
I was tired, and though our lengthy conversation seemed to hold the
alcohol at bay, its hazy influence began to weigh down my mind. "Have
you done tests? Have you tried this thing out?"
"We performed preliminary tests on Alex, and he felt very positive. He
said we were ready to perform the full procedure, but . . . well . . . "
"I understand. He was taken out of the picture. So now why me? “I
"Why you, indeed," Mathew said.
"You really don't know me, and yet you've confided in me with some
pretty heavy stuff."
"I am a good judge of people, after all, that's part of my job. You seem
like you could genuinely use my help, and frankly, I really could use
yours. I can't exactly advertise in the classifieds, can I?
"I guess not."
"Please think about it, after you've gotten some sleep. I'm sure you
will understand the benefits of what I am offering you, Daniel. And I'm
sure you will still have questions. God knows I would if I were you. I
can answer them all once we get under way, I assure you.” Mathew got
up from his stool and pulled a card out of his shirt pocket. "My cell
number. Please call me. Tomorrow."
I took the card from him and studied it before slipping it into my
"I've got a lot to think about," I said.
"Not really," he replied. "I will hear from you tomorrow then." Mathew
turned and walked to the door, opened it and was gone.
I pushed my drink away, not really caring that it was still almost full.
I was done drinking for the night. I needed a cab; there was no question
about that. I had the bartender make the arrangements for my ride and
was told my car would be fine overnight. I gave him a nice tip for his
troubles, picked up Jules’ cards and walked outside, relishing the
cool night breeze.
I pulled Mathew's card out and looked at it again. Was he a kook or was
he on the level? At that point I really didn't care.
The alcohol had numbed my senses and dulled the burning emotions I'd
left the house with. All I wanted now was to get in my bed and let sleep
overtake me. I would deal with Mathew's proposal in the morning.
Excerpted from "Another Time - Another Chance [Kindle Edition]" by Steve Wilhelm. Copyright © 2011 by Steve Wilhelm. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.