His 18-year-old twin is dead.
His hands go to his chest, as if it's happening to him. He starts ripping off his shirt because he can't rip off his skin and rip up his heart. He whirls, glimpses a mirror and jerks his head away. Seeing himself is seeing Devaughn!
He collapses and sobs. Devaughn always told Devard he'd never go anywhere without him. But he had, he had, he had....
At the memorial service, Bowden—who had never lost a player in all those decades of mat drills-apologized to the Darling family and said, "I hope this won't hit anyone the wrong way...but he's the first player I've coached in 47 years who actually worked himself to death.... He said, 'I will not quit. I will the before I give up.' That's a great virtue. I don't have it. Oh, God, what a role model You have created for us to follow."
Devard walked into their bedroom when the service ended, and at the bottom of his goals poster he wrote: First-team All-American. At the funeral he wrapped his arms around Devaughn's helmet and hugged it to the end. Someone else hadn't died. Half of him was dead.
And so a boy who had never come to know aloneness the way other human beings do—little by little, as a side effect of breathing—suddenly knew an aloneness with no bottom. He clutched at almost anything as he hurtled down that shaft. The tattoo that Devaughn had had etched on his left biceps just after his 18th birthday (an idea Devard wanted no part of at the time) now blazed on Devard's left biceps: a cross wrapped in barbed wire beneath the nickname Devaughn had given himself, THE BLESSED ONE. He carried Devaughn's key chain, wore Devaughn's helmet in his mother's house and, when that wasn't enough, wore Devaughn's jersey, too. He talked out loud to Devaughn as if Devaughn were still at his elbow. On their birthday he ordered two cakes at the bakery counter, one with his name and one with Devaughn's. Mummy had to walk out. She couldn't bear it. He cried himself to sleep night after night, month after month.
He roamed everywhere he might find his missing half. Back onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium, which they'd charged onto together as fire-breathing freshmen; back to the trainers' room where life leaked out of his brother; back to the hallway at Moore Athletic Center where their hands touched for the last time; back to Burt Reynolds Hall, where Dennis would find him at frightful hours murmuring, "That's where I'm supposed to be," then hug him and lead him away. Everywhere except the Rubber Room. Devard couldn't make his legs go through that door.
And still, no matter how painstaking his search, his half-soul always seemed a whisper, a shadow, a sudden glance away. There was only one way to save himself—and Devaughn too—from the bottom of that shaft. But couldn't football kill Devard, too?