By Rebecca Rose
I had not talked to Cole for many years, but I could immediately tell the rumors about his PTSD were true. He didn’t look like himself. Once a wildly handsome man, now he appeared depressed and was overweight. He looked like a man suffering from some kind of emotional haunting. Pain transformed his features, reshaped his expression into one of forbidding despondency. I could see the drug abuse in his pupils and shaky hands. I could actually smell the funk of hopelessness that clung to his dirty clothing. A surge of sadness rose up and crashed over me. Seeing him like that nearly broke my heart in two.
I guess having to live with the man inside him who had to do the things that needed to be done—who saw the things that had to be seen—during his time in war, left him injured in its own terrifying way. Cole may have come home from the war, but he didn’t really come back. Everywhere he went, he took a dark shadow with him, one cast internally but seen unmistakably through his eyes, now sunken in their sockets.
I learned that night that Cole had become a recluse years ago. I suppose he thought that if he could only get far enough away from everyone that time might do its job in healing him. Yet, from what I could see, this method only seemed to yank him further down into a deep, black crater of despair.
Seeing Cole like that, barely carrying on a life somewhere within the craggy confines of the thing we civilians really have no good name for, affected me deeply. It made my heart hurt tremendously. I thought about how unfair it was that war should be allowed to hollow out a man’s core like that. It also made me fear Wes might get to that point someday, that something in his future service might break him like it did his brother.