Here's what you need to know: some cliches are true, and war is definitely hell. It's being afraid all the time, and when you're not afraid it's because you're pumped full of adrenaline you could literally burst. It's watching people who you love- really profoundly love- get blown to pieces right next to you. It's seeing a leg lying in the ditch and picking it up to put it in a bag because no man- or part of a man, your friend- can be left behind. It's the dark night of the soul. There's no front line over there. The war is all around them, every day, everywhere they go. Some handle it better than others. We don't know why, but we do know this: the human mind can't safely or healthily process that kind of carnage and uncertainty and horror. It just can't. No one comes back from war the same.
It is a kiss that, once begun, never really ends. Interrupted, yes. Paused, certainly. But from that very moment onward, Vera sees the whole of her life as only a breath away from kissing him again. On that night in the park, they begin the delicate task of binding their souls together, creating a whole comprising their separate halves.
She remembered how it had felt and tasted, that slowly descending depression, like a thick glass jar that closed around you, sucking away the air you needed to breathe, creating a barrier between you and the world. The hell of it was that she'd been able to see all that she was missing, but when she'd reached out, all she'd touched was cold, hard glass.
He was afraid that the secrets she'd kept would always be here, inside him, an ugly malignant thing lodged near enough to his heart to upset its rhythm, and though it could be removed, cut out, there would always be scars; bits and pieces of it would remain in his blood, making it wrong somehow, so that if he accidentally sliced his skin open, his blood would--for one heartbeat--flow as black as India ink before it remembered that it should be red.
The falling apart of a man's life should make more noise. It should startle passerby with its Sturm and Drang. It ought to sound like the Parthenon crashing down. Not this ordinary, everyday kind of quiet...He closed his eyes...And still it was quiet, this falling apart of his life, as silent as the last beat of an old man's heart. A quiet, echoing thud, an then...nothing (Chapter 24).