Eddie is thirty-three years old today, and he wakes up sweating from a recurring nightmare: wandering through the flaming village in the Philippines, he hears a loud, constant scream. The sense of “darkness” stays with Eddie as he wakes, making him feel detached and unmotivated. He fears explaining this darkness to Marguerite, because he thinks she is “supposed to make him happy.” That night, when Eddie returns from his work as a taxi driver, Marguerite is dressed up, and playing the record of their first love song, “You Made Me Love You.” She has set out taffy with a white colored ribbon and cake, and she sings “Happy Birthday” and kisses Eddie. Eddie tries to fight his detachment so he can enjoy this moment with Marguerite. Then there is a knock at the door—a neighbor has come to tell them “something has happened” to Eddie’s father.
Having been both the victim and the perpetrator of the darkest aspects of humanity, Eddie struggles to keep his ability to connect to other humans and to feel present in the calm of ordinary life. Just like during the war, Eddie’s love for Marguerite is the only force anchoring him to reality and to his life. During the war, the thought of Marguerite compelled Eddie to fight to stay alive physically, while now, she moves him to stay alive spiritually. Eddie’s sense of lethargy and detachment is also typical of clinical depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)—mental health issues that affect many veterans. All the important events of Eddie’s life seem intimately connected to his birthdays.