Friday, September 30, 2011

"I'm an atheist."

Hanz, with his long hair, pierced nose, eyebrows, ears, and don't want to know where else, announced, "There, I said it..."

"Why am I not suprise," Ellen, rolling her eyes, said...

Actually, we were with the sudden declaration, we all, for a second or two, were just looking at him... personally, where did that come from...?

Then, he turned to me,"what about you, do you believe in God?"

"Right," Ellen interrupts, "ask the gay guy!" To which I should really be offended of... But that's Ellen...

"Well," I said, completely ignoring her, "with all the traffic on rush hour... on Christmas season... Baby, you'll hope there's god..."

"To make sense of everything?" Hanz retorted, "you needed a god for that..."

"No, I needed to believe that things are going to be alright... it would be okay..."

It silenced him, he was thinking... then almost in a mumble, he said "things would never be alright or okay... you just get used to it and learn to live with it..."

"For both of your sake," Ellen butts in, "I hope you really don't believe that..."

My feet still hurts even to the tinniest movement...

"What about you, Kate?" I asked, "You've been awfully silent...?"

"I try not to take part on religious debate," she answered, "but, though I'm not playing virgin, and don't look one, I'm actually very religious, you are going to hate me..."

I laughed, really laughed, it was loud, I made a guy on the next street look... good looking that guy... I don't know why it seemed so funny to me, maybe because, "It have been more than six months since the last time you had sex, honey... at this time and age, you are a virgin again..."

"You are so mean..." Kate said.

"I thought it would be just like riding a bike?" Hanz asked...

"What do you mean your religious?" Ellen asked.

"I actually go hear mass every Sunday, and that I pray a lot, I can say, I do have a good relationship with God..."

"Do you want to join our Christian group" Ellen asked almost immediately, I held my breath, as I know either ways, yes or no, it would make me laugh so hard, it would be heard from Trinoma to Moa--that totally rhymed!!!

Kate turned to us and said with so much conviction: 
"I so hate the both of you!"

"So, is that a no..." Hanz asked in response.

"Just to spite you, I will go with Ellen."

And there, I laughed and so did Hanz... Kate realized it too was so funny and started laughing...

image 005

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pedring downed the malungay tree infront of the house...

Good thing not toward the house otherwise we'll all be pissed--no internet, no electricity, and my phone is low in battery--and I wouldn't be able to ask, "so we are having malungay for lunch!?"

Indeed, we did...

At least, with Ondoy we had electricity... And that we were busy, we have something to do--take everything up, to a higher place... Most typhoon, you just get to watch and worry...

Again, bad joke!

A month or so ago...

I was at RITM OPD Annex for a refill and check up when a guy just got his confirmatory that he is infected with the virus... And that he was introduced to us--there were other guys whom I don't know either... He was introduced as "bagong member" to which I responded automatically:

"Congratulations! Welcome to the club..."


Yah... I did realize that was not funny at all at mid sentence but there it was already...

Bad joke! Bad joke! Bad joke!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This two guys direct messaged me at twitter, so I figured they don't want to be identified...

So, as much as I want to hail their name here, I just have to content myself in offering my body to them... Toinkz!

I want to see a doctor about it... Nerve problem shouldn't be taken so lightly... And yes, perhaps, I can avail of free consultation in a government hospital as I have been doing... But they might recommend undergoing procedures or therapy and that it would cost a lot... I wouldn't be able to afford it...

So, hopefully, prayers... Gaining back my ideal weight... Strenghtening my muscles again, plus perhaps adding vitamin B12 suplement will do the trick and fix the problem...

The other guy asked me if the pain I wrote about was peripheral neuropathy...

I had no idea what that was, so I didn't know, couldn't even spell it when I was about to google it and have to go back to the message. I was using my phone to access the world wide web, and it does not allow copy-paste, so I have to write it down on paper first, then copy-type it on google search box...

I'm dyslexic, can't live without spelling check...

Anyway, It was dead on, the symptoms, and the cause... Indeed, I'm suffering from nerve damage... Pin and needles, numbness and sharp pain on my feet... And the cause: being PLHIV, the numerous antibiotics, rapid weight lost, muscle lost, I was almost bedridden for months...

No known cure... There are researches and suggestions... Some drugs for other ailments were suggested, even marijuana to help in the pain... But bottomline is that what only can be done is encourage and hope for nerve regeneration... Taking in vit B12 suplement was advised...

Syempre na shy ako dun sa nagoffer ng financial help...

Kahit na I badly needed it... Still, di ba...? Ewan, maybe it's pride... Even with my parents, I hate asking them for money... I just waite for them to just give me... So, my dad doesn't, he wants me to ask, I guess... My mom is the one sensitive to it and just give as much as she can... And that, I am taking note of every peso, as though they are my parents, I am considering everything as a loan that I have to pay back...

So, really, I don't want to ask... But I have a donate button via paypal... Maybe you can use that... Hehehehehehe...

Last time I checked, it was almost 4am...

Then automatically, I was up quarter to 7... I closed my eyes again, when I open them up... It's already 8:50... And it's raining outside... It's monday... Why didn't my phone's alarm come off...

Oh, I forgot to set it to am, it was still on 7:55 pm... Another missed ARV break... Damn it!

You can follow me at twitter: @casuallypositiv, without the "e"... There, having read my blog entry about my problem with my feet, two guys offered help... One financial and the other, information...

Monday, September 26, 2011

"OMG! Cute guy totally checked me out!"

I twitted, and he really did, smiled at me...

"I still got it!"

Either that or... No! Not a charity case! Hey, have to build my confidence back, bear with me...

Plus, I have seen that look once to many before... Before I got sick... I was beautiful then... I didn't go around because I was easy... It was because I was hot... Toinkz!

So, I know...

Those days were gone and even if I manage to recover it, I have an extra baggage they need to know first...

I caught him looking at me again... He smiled shyly... I smiled back... Stood up... Damn it! My feet hurts! Picked up my doggie bags and left...

Hey, if it's meant to be, we would see each other again... With HIV+ printed on my forehead... Or something to that effect...

Our friendly neighborhood McDonalds is now a wifi zone...

So, using my phone, I twitted about it... "twitted"...? Hmmmm... Google in a making...

Anyhow, it have wifi, food, is open 24 hours and my feet hurts from walking to get there... I twitted: I can live here... Like really, don't want to get up, not even move my feet... It hurts!

Ooooh... Cute guy...

This is when you hate technology... Cute guy's eyes are glued to his smart phone, he just walked in so probably he was trying to connect... And why won't he be able to, it's a smart phone!!!

No more plastic too in Pasig, just like in Alabang... Everything is on paper bag... Poor trees...

What?!? I'm just saying...

Dinner is Mcspaghetti, mcfrench fries, and mccoke--I'm in McDonalds and so I figured... Not exactly the healthiest or most healthful, which ever you deem more correct, diet for a PLHIV, but it's better than none...

On my Mcdoggie bag is chicken fillet with rice and, hopefully, gravy... And on another, but smaller, Mcdoggie bag, is a regular coke... Everything for 125 pesos, I think it's value for my money... Sulit as Kris would put it...

Mcdoggie bag is breakfast... Or midnight snack... Or 3am snack... Whatever!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I really don't know what to do already...

I did all I can to make the pain go away... Have my cousin massage it every night... Apply hot compress... Nothing worked...

All I have left to do is to beg God, beg Him to make it go away... I prayed and prayed... Beg for all I'm worth...

Nothing yet... Yes, I am still hoping He will hear me and answer...

I have to...

But, It's scaring me...

It's been going on, the pain, for months already... And, I think it is getting worst...

I'm afraid one day, I'll wake up no longer able to walk...

As I said, I could handle pain, but up to what point...? Or, clearly there is something wrong with my feet, what if it decides to shutdown and no longer function...

I need to be able to walk... I need to be able to move around on my own... I can't be recovering from TB, PLHIV, and not able to walk...

I really don't want to complain...

Or make a big deal about it because it will mean seeing doctors again, and going under a couple of test to determine what is causing the pain... I don't mind that... Just that I can't afford it and that it would mean asking more money to my parents, my mom...

And my mom is struggling as it is with money...

I can tolerate the pain, I really don't have a choice in that... It does make me cry and scream, but I'm okay... I can handle it...

It actually hurt so bad...

And that the pain makes me want to scream already, and that I do, in the middle of the night, I just muffle it with my pillow...

But, it really hurts and it scaring me already... It's not just when I walk or standing, even if my feet is well rested and cushioned... It hurt so much... And it have been hurting for months already...

I'm here, back in Manila...

I was to ask for my job back... That's my alibi, when really, I'm just bored comatose in the province, I needed to go out! And away!

I actually know they won't have me back, as per FB, call volume is down, agents are actually put on (in)voluntary time out...

At least, not now... Was told maybe last week of October... So now, contemplating if could I waite that long...? Or should I waite...?

Just 10 lb shy...?

But, yes, we do that...

But, yes, we do that, it's part of our culture... We, instead of asking "kamusta?" they comment on your physicality and you feel you are oblige to explain yourself, why you are fat, thin, fair or dark... Which ultimately answers the unspoken "kamusta?"

We are clever, that way...

"ang payat mo!?!"

Like, yah... I know.

Actually, I have gained already... My weight dropped to 90lb when I got sick... Now, I'm at 110... Just 10lb shy to my goal 120...

But we do that, don't we... We bump into someone we have not seen in awhile, the first thing we say is "ang taba mo!" or "tumaba ka!" Or, well, in my case, "ang payat mo!" Either that, or your skin tone, "ang puti mo!" or "ba't ang itim mo?!"

I don't know which is worst...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nakakairita kasi...

Because it should have not happen... how was a 13 your old kid carry a gun inside a mall, let alone, how did he get a hold of a gun...? Shit! It have not even been a week since the last security lapse--wife shooting her husband... Damn it!!!

He was just 13... God... 13... bakit may love-love na...? I know at that age, medyo mapusok... pero... Ewan... I don't know if I really just don't understand or really, I don't want to understand...

Di ba dapat takot pa sila... tayo... at 13, ayaw pa natin aminin... or that nagmamalinis pa tayo sa edad na yan... bakit may ganyan...?

Ang sakit sa ulo...


Well, how were you when you were 13...? Confused? Wish you have someone to talk to about how you are feeling? It was hard... as if high school and teenage years are not difficult enough... we have to deal with our sexuality, the question of why are we like this, and acceptance, or hiding who we really, suppressing it... remember...?

Shouldn't we do, now that we are older, hopefully know better, at least a thing or two, something for this kids...? At least, have someone they can talk to, express what they are feeling, let out what is inside them... hopefully be guided to this world...

Pareho natin alam na di madaling maging bakla... kung tayo nga na matanda na and have been to alot already... halos di pa rin natin makaya... ang 13 anyos pa kaya?

I think, kailangan ng ibalik sa Miss Universe ang little sisters... I don't know how... but I think we should look into this...

one of the best film I have seen...

I have a plan...

I also have a plan...

What's your plan?

To listen to your plan...


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Image 004

With Coco Martin, it is not about the body, it's his eyes, his smile, that would make you melt... that coffee commercial, when he said "Yummy..." I know it got in to you... it did to me, for days...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

quoting from an article from Philippines star...

"based on the overall impression she gave the judges and the pageant’s global viewers, not only is Shamcey a winner, but so are all of the Filipinos worldwide. For once, we’ve been able to send a clear message to the world that we are not a nation comprised of imported house helpers and care givers, illegal immigrants, or severely unhinged policemen who take tourist buses hostage. Because of Shamcey, we’re no longer the underdogs, but the dark horses, to borrow from pageant terminology, which means, we’re people who are often overlooked, but given the right opportunities, we’re capable of making it to the top. I don’t think we could’ve asked Shamcey for more… except, perhaps, for world peace. Chos!"

Indeed, I guess that's what beauty queens are for...


That was a long post...

That's Brokeback Mountain, by Anne Proulx... I thought better read than watch... not that the movie was bad... it was excellent... just that I am more into reading...

A post from Daniel ( asking when would it be the right time to tell... the premise was that he have a friend who recently found out he have the virus... and is actively dating, wanting to find that one special someone... and that he asked when is the right time to disclose HIV status...  

Contemplating on the question, I thought... we could still date and hope for forever after?!? Hmmmm... well, even prior to getting sick and finding out I have the virus, I actually never prioritized love and having someone... it was way below my list actually... and that really, if it wasn't for sex and vanity--I get such a high when I walk pass the bar and heads turn to watch me go by, my insecurities forgotten for the mean time...

But now that I have confirmed that I am a carrier--you see I have always known, but have not confirmed before--I can no longer just sleep around, I need to let the other party... or parties--I like group fun--about my condition first... I don't have, to I guess, I don't think there is any law, at least here, that requires me to... but I think I am morally oblige to do so...

Hmmmmmm...? And I don't think I just want to disclose my status with just anyone, someone I just met... or do I... I am actually contemplating on coming out to the world... at least putting my face out there, that I am a PLHIV... and I am leaning to that maybe a good idea but first, I need to look healthy--be in my tip top shape and beautiful again, too thin right now, still looking sickly... and that may come across negatively to people--I think it would help with my advocacy... well, most set on prevention, I am set to getting people know their HIV status... I really believe here in Manila, specially the gay community, is that either they are HIV+ or they don't know their HIV status...

But that is months from now... I actually have not come back to the gym... have not perform an ounce of exercise...

I think it should be upfront so not to waste time and effort of getting to know each other and liking each other... I think before that happens, you should disclose first your HIV status... as it could be a huge deal breaker... 

But then, what do I know...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fiction 003

They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat, up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high-school drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life. Ennis, reared by his older brother and sister after their parents drove off the only curve on Dead Horse Road, leaving them twenty-four dollars in cash and a two-mortgage ranch, applied at age fourteen for a hardship license that let him make the hour-long trip from the ranch to the high school. The pickup was old, no heater, one windshield wiper, and bad tires; when the transmission went, there was no money to fix it. He had wanted to be a sophomore, felt the word carried a kind of distinction, but the truck broke down short of it, pitching him directly into ranch work.

In 1963, when he met Jack Twist, Ennis was engaged to Alma Beers. Both Jack and Ennis claimed to be saving money for a small spread; in Enniss case that meant a tobacco can with two five-dollar bills inside. That spring, hungry for any job, each had signed up with Farm and Ranch Employmentthey came together on paper as herder and camp tender for the same sheep operation north of Signal. The summer range lay above the tree line on Forest Service land on Brokeback Mountain. It would be Jack Twists second summer on the mountain, Enniss first. Neither of them was twenty.

They shook hands in the choky little trailer office in front of a table littered with scribbled papers, a Bakelite ashtray brimming with stubs. The venetian blinds hung askew and admitted a triangle of white light, the shadow of the foremans hand moving into it. Joe Aguirre, wavy hair the color of cigarette ash and parted down the middle, gave them his point of view.

Forest Service got designated camp-sites on the allotments. Them camps can be a couple a miles from where we pasture the sheep. Bad predator loss, nobody near lookin after em at night. What I wantcamp tender in the main camp where the Forest Service says, but the herderpointing at Jack with a chop of his handpitch a pup tent on the Q.T. with the sheep, out a sight, and hes goin a sleep there. Eat supper, breakfast in camp, but sleep with the sheep, hundred per cent, no fire, dont leave no sign. Roll up that tent every mornin case Forest Service snoops around. Got the dogs, your .30-.30, sleep there. Last summer had goddam near twenty-five-per-cent loss. I dont want that again. You, he said to Ennis, taking in the ragged hair, the big nicked hands, the jeans torn, button-gaping shirt, Fridays twelve noon be down at the bridge with your next-week list and mules. Somebody with suppliesll be there in a pickup. He didnt ask if Ennis had a watch but took a cheap round ticker on a braided cord from a box on a high shelf, wound and set it, tossed it to him as if he werent worth the reach. Tomorrow mornin well truck you up the jump-off. Pair of deuces going nowhere.

They found a bar and drank beer through the afternoon, Jack telling Ennis about a lightning storm on the mountain the year before that killed forty-two sheep, the peculiar stink of them and the way they bloated, the need for plenty of whiskey up there. At first glance Jack seemed fair enough, with his curly hair and quick laugh, but for a small man he carried some weight in the haunch and his smile disclosed buckteeth, not pronounced enough to let him eat popcorn out of the neck of a jug, but noticeable. He was infatuated with the rodeo life and fastened his belt with a minor bull-riding buckle, but his boots were worn to the quick, holed beyond repair, and he was crazy to be somewhere, anywhere, else than Lightning Flat.

Ennis, high-arched nose and narrow face, was scruffy and a little cave-chested, balanced a small torso on long, caliper legs, and possessed a muscular and supple body made for the horse and for fighting. His reflexes were uncommonly quick, and he was farsighted enough to dislike reading anything except Hamleys saddle catalogue.

The sheep trucks and horse trailers unloaded at the trailhead, and a bandy-legged Basque showed Ennis how to pack the mulestwo packs and a riding load on each animal, ring-lashed with double diamonds and secured with half hitchestelling him, Dont never order soup. Them boxes a soup are real bad to pack. Three puppies belonging to one of the blue heelers went in a pack basket, the runt inside Jacks coat, for he loved a little dog. Ennis picked out a big chestnut called Cigar Butt to ride, Jack a bay mare that turned out to have a low startle point. The string of spare horses included a mouse-colored grullo whose looks Ennis liked. Ennis and Jack, the dogs, the horses and mules, a thousand ewes and their lambs flowed up the trail like dirty water through the timber and out above the tree line into the great flowery meadows and the coursing, endless wind.

They got the big tent up on the Forest Services platform, the kitchen and grub boxes secured. Both slept in camp that first night, Jack already bitching about Joe Aguirres sleep-with-the-sheep-and-no-fire order, though he saddled the bay mare in the dark morning without saying much. Dawn came glassy-orange, stained from below by a gelatinous band of pale green. The sooty bulk of the mountain paled slowly until it was the same color as the smoke from Enniss breakfast fire. The cold air sweetened, banded pebbles and crumbs of soil cast sudden pencil-long shadows, and the rearing lodgepole pines below them massed in slabs of somber malachite.

During the day Ennis looked across a great gulf and sometimes saw Jack, a small dot moving across a high meadow, as an insect moves across a tablecloth; Jack, in his dark camp, saw Ennis as night fire, a red spark on the huge black mass of mountain.

Jack came lagging in late one afternoon, drank his two bottles of beer cooled in a wet sack on the shady side of the tent, ate two bowls of stew, four of Enniss stone biscuits, a can of peaches, rolled a smoke, watched the sun drop.

Im commutin four hours a day, he said morosely. Come in for breakfast, go back to the sheep, evenin get embedded down, come in for supper, go back to the sheep, spend half the night jumpin up and checkin for coyotes. By rights I should be spendin the night here. Aguirre got no right a make me do this.

You want a switch? said Ennis. I wouldnt mind herdin. I wouldnt mind sleepin out there.

That aint the point. Point is, we both should be in this camp. And that goddam pup tent smells like cat piss or worse.

Wouldnt mind bein out there.Tell you what, you got a get up a dozen times in the night out there over them coyotes. Happy to switch but give you warnin I cant cook worth a shit. Pretty good with a can opener.

Cant be no worse than me, then. Sure, I wouldnt mind a do it.

They fended off the night for an hour with the yellow kerosene lamp, and around ten Ennis rode Cigar Butt, a good night horse, through the glimmering frost back to the sheep, carrying left-over biscuits, a jar of jam, and a jar of coffee with him for the next day, saying hed save a trip, stay out until supper.

Shot a coyote just first light, he told Jack the next evening, sloshing his face with hot water, lathering up soap, and hoping his razor had some cut left in it, while Jack peeled potatoes. Big son of a bitch. Balls on him size a apples. I bet hed took a few lambs. Looked like he could a eat a camel. You want some a this hot water? Theres plenty.

Its all yours.

Well, Im goin a warsh everthing I can reach, he said, pulling off his boots and jeans (no drawers, no socks, Jack noticed), slopping the green washcloth around until the fire spat.

They had a high-time supper by the fire, a can of beans each, fried potatoes, and a quart of whiskey on shares, sat with their backs against a log, boot soles and copper jeans rivets hot, swapping the bottle while the lavender sky emptied of color and the chill air drained down, drinking, smoking cigarettes, getting up every now and then to piss, firelight throwing a sparkle in the arched stream, tossing sticks on the fire to keep the talk going, talking horses and rodeo, rough-stock events, wrecks and injuries sustained, the submarine Thresher lost two months earlier with all hands and how it must have been in the last doomed minutes, dogs each had owned and known, the military service, Jacks home ranch, where his father and mother held on, Enniss family place, folded years ago after his folks died, the older brother in Signal and a married sister in Casper. Jack said his father had been a pretty well-known bull rider years back but kept his secrets to himself, never gave Jack a word of advice, never came once to see Jack ride, though he had put him on the woollies when he was a little kid. Ennis said the kind of riding that interested him lasted longer than eight seconds and had some point to it. Moneys a good point, said Jack, and Ennis had to agree. They were respectful of each others opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected. Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought hed never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon.

The summer went on and they moved the herd to new pasture, shifted the camp; the distance between the sheep and the new camp was greater and the night ride longer. Ennis rode easy, sleeping with his eyes open, but the hours he was away from the sheep stretched out and out. Jack pulled a squalling burr out of the harmonica, flattened a little from a fall off the skittish bay mare, and Ennis had a good raspy voice; a few nights they mangled their way through some songs. Ennis knew the salty words to Strawberry Roan. Jack tried a Carl Perkins song, bawling What I say-ay-ay, but he favored a sad hymn, Water-Walking Jesus, learned from his mother, who believed in the Pentecost, and that he sang at dirge slowness, setting off distant coyote yips.

Too late to go out to them damn sheep, said Ennis, dizzy drunk on all fours one cold hour when the moon had notched past two. The meadow stones glowed white-green and a flinty wind worked over the meadow, scraped the fire low, then ruffled it into yellow silk sashes. Got you a extra blanket Ill roll up out here and grab forty winks, ride out at first light.

Freeze your ass off when that fire dies down. Better off sleepin in the tent.

Doubt Ill feel nothin. But he staggered under canvas, pulled his boots off, snored on the ground cloth for a while, woke Jack with the clacking of his jaw.

Jesus Christ, quit hammerin and get over here. Bedrolls big enough, said Jack in an irritable sleep-clogged voice. It was big enough, warm enough, and in a little while they deepened their intimacy considerably. Ennis ran full throttle on all roads whether fence mending or money spending, and he wanted none of it when Jack seized his left hand and brought it to his erect cock. Ennis jerked his hand away as though hed touched fire, got to his knees, unbuckled his belt, shoved his pants down, hauled Jack onto all fours, and, with the help of the clear slick and a little spit, entered him, nothing hed done before but no instruction manual needed. They went at it in silence except for a few sharp intakes of breath and Jacks choked Guns goin off, then out, down, and asleep.

Ennis woke in red dawn with his pants around his knees, a top-grade headache, and Jack butted against him; without saying anything about it, both knew how it would go for the rest of the summer, sheep be damned.

As it did go. They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddam word except once Ennis said, Im not no queer, and Jack jumped in with Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobodys business but ours. There were only the two of them on the mountain, flying in the euphoric, bitter air, looking down on the hawks back and the crawling lights of vehicles on the plain below, suspended above ordinary affairs and distant from tame ranch dogs barking in the dark hours. They believed themselves invisible, not knowing Joe Aguirre had watched them through his 10x42 binoculars for ten minutes one day, waiting until theyd buttoned up their jeans, waiting until Ennis rode back to the sheep, before bringing up the message that Jacks people had sent word that his uncle Harold was in the hospital with pneumonia and expected not to make it. Though he did, and Aguirre came up again to say so, fixing Jack with his bold stare, not bothering to dismount.

In August Ennis spent the whole night with Jack in the main camp, and in a blowy hailstorm the sheep took off west and got among a herd in another allotment. There was a damn miserable time for five days, Ennis and a Chilean herder with no English trying to sort them out, the task almost impossible as the paint brands were worn and faint at this late season. Even when the numbers were right Ennis knew the sheep were mixed. In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed.

The first snow came early, on August 13th, piling up a foot, but was followed by a quick melt. The next week Joe Aguirre sent word to bring them down, another, bigger storm was moving in from the Pacific, and they packed in the game and moved off the mountain with the sheep, stones rolling at their heels, purple cloud crowding in from the west and the metal smell of coming snow pressing them on. The mountain boiled with demonic energy, glazed with flickering broken-cloud light; the wind combed the grass and drew from the damaged krummholz and slit rock a bestial drone. As they descended the slope Ennis felt he was in a slow-motion, but headlong, irreversible fall.

Joe Aguirre paid them, said little. He had looked at the milling sheep with a sour expression, said, Some a these never went up there with you. The count was not what hed hoped for, either. Ranch stiffs never did much of a job.

You goin a do this next summer? said Jack to Ennis in the street, one leg already up in his green pickup. The wind was gusting hard and cold.

Maybe not. A dust plume rose and hazed the air with fine grit and he squinted against it. Like I said, Alma and mes gettin married in December. Try to get somethin on a ranch. You? He looked away from Jacks jaw, bruised blue from the hard punch Ennis had thrown him on the last day.

If nothin better comes along. Thought some about going back up to my daddys place, give him a hand over the winter, then maybe head out for Texas in the spring. If the draft dont get me.

Well, see you around, I guess. The wind tumbled an empty feed bag down the street until it fetched up under the truck.

Right, said Jack, and they shook hands, hit each other on the shoulder; then there was forty feet of distance between them and nothing to do but drive away in opposite directions. Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time. He stopped at the side of the road and, in the whirling new snow, tried to puke but nothing came up. He felt about as bad as he ever had and it took a long time for the feeling to wear off.

In December Ennis married Alma Beers and had her pregnant by mid-January. He picked up a few short-lived ranch jobs, then settled in as a wrangler on the old Elwood Hi-Top place, north of Lost Cabin, in Washakie County. He was still working there in September when Alma, Jr., as he called his daughter, was born and their bedroom was full of the smell of old blood and milk and baby shit, and the sounds were of squalling and sucking and Almas sleepy groans, all reassuring of fecundity and lifes continuance to one who worked with livestock.

When the Hi-Top folded they moved to a small apartment in Riverton, up over a laundry. Ennis got on the highway crew, tolerating it but working weekends at the Rafter B in exchange for keeping his horses out there. A second girl was born and Alma wanted to stay in town near the clinic because the child had an asthmatic wheeze.

Ennis, please, no more damn lonesome ranches for us, she said, sitting on his lap, wrapping her thin, freckled arms around him. Lets get a place here in town.

I guess, said Ennis, slipping his hand up her blouse sleeve and stirring the silky armpit hair, fingers moving down her ribs to the jelly breast, the round belly and knee and up into the wet gap all the way to the north pole or the equator depending which way you thought you were sailing, working at it until she shuddered and bucked against his hand and he rolled her over, did quickly what she hated. They stayed in the little apartment, which he favored because it could be left at any time.

The fourth summer since Brokeback Mountain came on and in June Ennis had a general-delivery letter from Jack Twist, the first sign of life in all that time.

Friend this letter is a long time over due. Hope you get it. Heard you was in Riverton. Im coming thru on the 24th, thought Id stop and buy you a beer. Drop me a line if you can, say if your there.

The return address was Childress, Texas. Ennis wrote back, You bet, gave the Riverton address.

The day was hot and clear in the morning, but by noon the clouds had pushed up out of the west rolling a little sultry air before them. Ennis, wearing his best shirt, white with wide black stripes, didnt know what time Jack would get there and so had taken the day off, paced back and forth, looking down into a street pale with dust. Alma was saying something about taking his friend to the Knife Fork for supper instead of cooking it was so hot, if they could get a babysitter, but Ennis said more likely hed just go out with Jack and get drunk. Jack was not a restaurant type, he said, thinking of the dirty spoons sticking out of the cans of cold beans balanced on the log.

Late in the afternoon, thunder growling, that same old green pickup rolled in and he saw Jack get out of the truck, beat-up Resistol tilted back. A hot jolt scalded Ennis and he was out on the landing pulling the door closed behind him. Jack took the stairs two and two. They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying son of a bitch, son of a bitch; then, and as easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, and hard, Jacks big teeth bringing blood, his hat falling to the floor, stubble rasping, wet saliva welling, and the door opening and Alma looking out for a few seconds at Enniss straining shoulders and shutting the door again and still they clinched, pressing chest and groin and thigh and leg together, treading on each others toes until they pulled apart to breathe and Ennis, not big on endearments, said what he said to his horses and daughters, Little darlin.

The door opened again a few inches and Alma stood in the narrow light.

What could he say? Alma, this is Jack Twist. Jack, my wife, Alma. His chest was heaving. He could smell Jackthe intensely familiar odor of cigarettes, musky sweat, and a faint sweetness like grass, and with it the rushing cold of the mountain. Alma, he said, Jack and me aint seen each other in four years. As if it were a reason. He was glad the light was dim on the landing but did not turn away from her.

Sure enough, said Alma in a low voice. She had seen what she had seen. Behind her in the room, lightning lit the window like a white sheet waving and the baby cried.

You got a kid? said Jack. His shaking hand grazed Enniss hand, electrical current snapped between them.

Two little girls, Ennis said. Alma, Jr., and Francine. Love them to pieces. Almas mouth twitched.

I got a boy, said Jack. Eight months old. Tell you what, I married a cute little old Texas girl down in ChildressLureen. From the vibration of the floorboard on which they both stood Ennis could feel how hard Jack was shaking.

Alma, he said. Jack and me is goin out and get a drink. Might not get back tonight, we get drinkin and talkin.

Sure enough, Alma said, taking a dollar bill from her pocket. Ennis guessed she was going to ask him to get her a pack of cigarettes, bring him back sooner.

Please to meet you, said Jack, trembling like a run-out horse.

Ennis said Alma in her misery voice, but that didnt slow him down on the stairs and he called back, Alma, you want smokes theres some in the pocket a my blue shirt in the bedroom.

They went off in Jacks truck, bought a bottle of whiskey, and within twenty minutes were in the Motel Siesta jouncing a bed. A few handfuls of hail rattled against the window, followed by rain and a slippery wind banging the unsecured door of the next room then and through the night.

The room stank of semen and smoke and sweat and whiskey, of old carpet and sour hay, saddle leather, shit and cheap soap. Ennis lay spread-eagled, spent and wet, breathing deep, still half tumescent; Jack blew forceful cigarette clouds like whale spouts, and said, Christ, it got to be all that time a yours a-horseback makes it so goddam good. We got to talk about this. Swear to God I didnt know we was goin a get into this againyeah, I did. Why Im here. I fuckin knew it. Red-lined all the way, couldnt get here fast enough.

I didnt know where in the hell you was, said Ennis. Four years. I about give up on you. I figured you was sore about that punch.

Friend, said Jack, I was in Texas rodeoin. How I met Lureen. Look over on that chair.

On the back of a soiled orange chair he saw the shine of a buckle. Bull ridin?

Yeah. I made three fuckin thousand dollars that year. Fuckin starved. Had to borrow everthing but a toothbrush from other guys. Drove grooves across Texas. Half the time under that cunt truck fixin it. Anyway, I didnt never think about losin. Lureen? Theres some serious money there. Her old mans got it. Got this farm-machinery business. Course he dont let her have none a the money, and he hates my fuckin guts, so its a hard go now but one a these days

Well, youre goin a go where you look. Army didnt get you? The thunder sounded far to the east, moving from them in its red wreaths of light.

They cant get no use out a me. Got some crushed vertebrates. And a stress fracture, the arm bone here, you know how bull ridin youre always leverin it off your thigh?she gives a little ever time you do it. Even if you tape it good you break it a little goddam bit at a time. Tell you what, hurts like a bitch afterward. Had a busted leg. Busted in three places. Come off the bull and it was a big bull with a lot a drop, he got rid a me in about three flat and he come after me and he was sure faster. Lucky enough. Friend a mine got his oil checked with a horn dipstick and that was all she wrote. Bunch a other things, fuckin busted ribs, sprains and pains, torn ligaments. See, it aint like it was in my daddys time. Its guys with money go to college, trained athaletes. You got to have some money to rodeo now. Lureens old man wouldnt give me a dime if I dropped it, except one way. And I know enough about the game now so I see that I aint never goin a be on the bubble. Other reasons. Im gettin out while I still can walk.

Ennis pulled Jacks hand to his mouth, took a hit from the cigarette, exhaled. Sure as hell seem in one piece to me. You know, I was sittin up here all that time tryin to figure out if I was? I know I aint. I mean, here we both got wives and kids, right? I like doin it with women, yeah, but Jesus H., aint nothin like this. I never had no thoughts a doin it with another guy except I sure wrang it out a hunderd times thinkin about you. You do it with other guys, Jack?

Shit no, said Jack, who had been riding more than bulls, not rolling his own. You know that. Old Brokeback got us good and it sure aint over. We got to work out what the fuck were goin a do now.

That summer, said Ennis. When we split up after we got paid out I had gut cramps so bad I pulled over and tried to puke, thought I ate somethin bad at that place in Dubois. Took me about a year to figure out it was that I shouldnt a let you out a my sights. Too late then by a long, long while.

Friend, said Jack. We got us a fuckin situation here. Got a figure out what to do.

I doubt theres nothin now we can do, said Ennis. What Im sayin, Jack, I built a life up in them years. Love my little girls. Alma? It aint her fault. You got your baby and wife, that place in Texas. You and me cant hardly be decent together if what happened back therehe jerked his head in the direction of the apartmentgrabs on us like that. We do that in the wrong place well be dead. Theres no reins on this one. It scares the piss out a me.

Got to tell you, friend, maybe somebody seen us that summer. I was back there the next June, thinkin about goin backI didnt, lit out for Texas insteadand Joe Aguirres in the office and he says to me, he says, You boys found a way to make the time pass up there, didnt you, and I gave him a look but when I went out I seen he had a big-ass pair a binoculars hangin off his rearview. He neglected to add that the foreman had leaned back in his squeaky wooden tilt chair and said, Twist, you guys wasnt gettin paid to leave the dogs baby-sit the sheep while you stemmed the rose, and declined to rehire him. Jack went on, Yeah, that little punch a yours surprised me. I never figured you to throw a dirty punch.

I come up under my brother K.E., three years oldern me, slugged me silly ever day. Dad got tired a me come bawlin in the house and when I was about six he set me down and says, Ennis, you got a problem and you got a fix it or its goin a be with you until youre ninety and K.E.s ninety-three. Well, I says, hes biggern me. Dad says, You got a take him unawares, dont say nothin to him, make him feel some pain, get out fast and keep doin it until he takes the message. Nothin like hurtin somebody to make him hear good. So I did. I got him in the outhouse, jumped him on the stairs, come over to his pillow in the night while he was sleepin and pasted him damn good. Took about two days. Never had trouble with K.E. since. The lesson was, Dont say nothin and get it over with quick. A telephone rang in the next room, rang on and on, stopped abruptly in mid-peal.

You wont catch me again, said Jack. Listen. Im thinkin, tell you what, if you and me had a little ranch together, little cow-and-calf operation, your horses, itd be some sweet life. Like I said, Im gettin out a rodeo. I aint no broke dick rider but I dont got the bucks a ride out this slump Im in and I dont got the bones a keep gettin wrecked. I got it figured, got this plan Ennis, how we can do it, you and me. Lureens old man, you bet hed give me a bunch if Id get lost. Already more or less said it

Whoa, whoa, whoa. It aint goin a be that way. We cant. Im stuck with what I got, caught in my own loop. Cant get out of it. Jack, I dont want a be like them guys you see around sometimes. And I dont want a be dead. There was these two old guys ranched together down home, Earl and RichDad would pass a remark when he seen them. They was a joke even though they was pretty tough old birds. I was what, nine years old, and they found Earl dead in a irrigation ditch. Theyd took a tire iron to him, spurred him up, drug him around by his dick until it pulled off, just bloody pulp. What the tire iron done looked like pieces a burned tomatoes all over him, nose tore down from skiddin on gravel.

You seen that?

Dad made sure I seen it. Took me to see it. Me and K.E. Dad laughed about it. Hell, for all I know he done the job. If he was alive and was to put his head in that door right now you bet hed go get his tire iron. Two guys livin together? No. All I can see is we get together once in a while way the hell out in the back a nowhere

How much is once in a while? said Jack. Once in a while ever four fuckin years?

No, said Ennis, forbearing to ask whose fault that was. I goddam hate it that youre goin a drive away in the mornin and Im goin back to work. But if you cant fix it you got a stand it, he said. Shit. I been lookin at people on the street. This happen a other people? What the hell do they do?

It dont happen in Wyomin and if it does I dont know what they do, maybe go to Denver, said Jack, sitting up, turning away from him, and I dont give a flyin fuck. Son of a bitch, Ennis, take a couple days off. Right now. Get us out a here. Throw your stuff in the back a my truck and lets get up in the mountains. Couple a days. Call Alma up and tell her youre goin. Come on, Ennis, you just shot my airplane out a the skygive me somethin a go on. This aint no little thing thats happenin here.

The hollow ringing began again in the next room, and as if he were answering it Ennis picked up the phone on the bedside table, dialled his own number.

A slow corrosion worked between Ennis and Alma, no real trouble, just widening water. She was working at a grocery-store clerk job, saw shed always have to work to keep ahead of the bills on what Ennis made. Alma asked Ennis to use rubbers because she dreaded another pregnancy. He said no to that, said he would be happy to leave her alone if she didnt want any more of his kids. Under her breath she said, Id have em if youd support em. And under that thought, Anyway, what you like to do dont make too many babies.

Her resentment opened out a little every year: the embrace she had glimpsed, Enniss fishing trips once or twice a year with Jack Twist and never a vacation with her and the girls, his disinclination to step out and have any fun, his yearning for low-paid, long-houred ranch work, his propensity to roll to the wall and sleep as soon as he hit the bed, his failure to look for a decent permanent job with the county or the power company put her in a long, slow dive, and when Alma, Jr., was nine and Francine seven she said, What am I doin, hangin around with him, divorced Ennis, and married the Riverton grocer.

Ennis went back to ranch work, hired on here and there, not getting much ahead but glad enough to be around stock again, free to drop things, quit if he had to, and go into the mountains at short notice. He had no serious hard feelings, just a vague sense of getting short-changed, and showed it was all right by taking Thanksgiving dinner with Alma and her grocer and the kids, sitting between his girls and talking horses to them, telling jokes, trying not to be a sad daddy. After the pie Alma got him off in the kitchen, scraped the plates and said she worried about him and he ought to get married again. He saw she was pregnant, about four, five months, he guessed.

Once burned, he said, leaning against the counter, feeling too big for the room.

You still go fishin with that Jack Twist?

Some. He thought shed take the pattern off the plate with the scraping.

You know, she said, and from her tone he knew something was coming, I used to wonder how come you never brought any trouts home. Always said you caught plenty. So one time I got your creel case open the night before you went on one a your little tripsprice tag still on it after five yearsand I tied a note on the end of the line. It said, Hello, Ennis, bring some fish home, love, Alma. And then you come back and said youd caught a bunch a browns and ate them up. Remember? I looked in the case when I got a chance and there was my note still tied there and that line hadnt touched water in its life. As though the word water had called out its domestic cousin, she twisted the faucet, sluiced the plates.

That dont mean nothin.

Dont lie, dont try to fool me, Ennis. I know what it means. Jack Twist? Jack Nasty. You and him

Shed overstepped his line. He seized her wrist and twisted; tears sprang and rolled, a dish clattered.

Shut up, he said. Mind your own business. You dont know nothin about it.

Im goin a yell for Bill.

You fuckin go right ahead. Go on and fuckin yell. Ill make him eat the fuckin floor and you too. He gave another wrench that left her with a burning bracelet, shoved his hat on backward and slammed out. He went to the Black and Blue Eagle bar that night, got drunk, had a short dirty fight, and left. He didnt try to see his girls for a long time, figuring they would look him up when they got the sense and years to move out from Alma.

They were no longer young men with all of it before them. Jack had filled out through the shoulders and hams; Ennis stayed as lean as a clothespole, stepped around in worn boots, jeans, and shirts summer and winter, added a canvas coat in cold weather. A benign growth appeared on his eyelid and gave it a drooping appearance; a broken nose healed crooked.

Years on years they worked their way through the high meadows and mountain drainages, horse-packing into the Big Horns, the Medicine Bows, the south end of the Gallatins, the Absarokas, the Granites, the Owl Creeks, the Bridger-Teton Range, the Freezeouts and the Shirleys, the Ferrises and the Rattlesnakes, the Salt River range, into the Wind Rivers over and again, the Sierra Madres, the Gros Ventres, the Washakies, the Laramies, but never returning to Brokeback.

Down in Texas Jacks father-in-law died and Lureen, who inherited the farm-equipment business, showed a skill for management and hard deals. Jack found himself with a vague managerial title, travelling to stock and agricultural-machinery shows. He had some money now and found ways to spend it on his buying trips. A little Texas accent flavored his sentences, cow twisted into kyow and wife coming out as waf. Hed had his front teeth filed down, set with steel plugs, and capped, said hed felt no pain, wore Texas suits and a tall white hat.

In May of 1983 they spent a few cold days at a series of little icebound, no-name high lakes, then worked across into the Hail Strew River drainage.

Going up, the day was fine, but the trail deep-drifted and slopping wet at the margins. They left it to wind through a slashy cut, leading the horses through brittle branch wood, Jack lifting his head in the heated noon to take the air scented with resinous lodgepole, the dry needle duff and hot rock, bitter juniper crushed beneath the horses hooves. Ennis, weather-eyed, looked west for the heated cumulus that might come up on such a day, but the boneless blue was so deep, said Jack, that he might drown looking up.

Around three they swung through a narrow pass to a southeast slope where the strong spring sun had had a chance to work, dropped down to the trail again, which lay snowless below them. They could hear the river muttering and making a distant train sound a long way off. Twenty minutes on they surprised a black bear on the bank above them rolling a log over for grubs, and Jacks horse shied and reared, Jack saying Wo! Wo! and Enniss bay dancing and snorting but holding. Jack reached for the .30-.06 but there was no need; the startled bear galloped into the trees with the lumpish gait that made it seem it was falling apart.

The tea-colored river ran fast with snowmelt, a scarf of bubbles at every high rock, pools and setbacks streaming. The ochre-branched willows swayed stiffly, pollened catkins like yellow thumbprints. The horses drank and Jack dismounted, scooped icy water up in his hand, crystalline drops falling from his fingers, his mouth and chin glistening with wet.

Get beaver fever doin that, said Ennis, then, Good enough place, looking at the level bench above the river, two or three fire rings from old hunting camps. A sloping meadow rose behind the bench, protected by a stand of lodgepole. There was plenty of dry wood. They set up camp without saying much, picketed the horses in the meadow. Jack broke the seal on a bottle of whiskey, took a long, hot swallow, exhaled forcefully, said, Thats one a the two things I need right now, capped it and tossed it to Ennis.

On the third morning there were the clouds Ennis had expected, a gray racer out of the West, a bar of darkness driving wind before it and small flakes. It faded after an hour into tender spring snow that heaped wet and heavy. By nightfall it had turned colder. Jack and Ennis passed a joint back and forth, the fire burning late, Jack restless and bitching about the cold, poking the flames with a stick, twisting the dial of the transistor radio until the batteries died.

Ennis said hed been putting the blocks to a woman who worked part-time at the Wolf Ears bar in Signal where he was working now for Car Scropes cow-and-calf outfit, but it wasnt going anywhere and she had some problems he didnt want. Jack said hed had a thing going with the wife of a rancher down the road in Childress and for the last few months hed slank around expecting to get shot by Lureen or the husband, one. Ennis laughed a little and said he probably deserved it. Jack said he was doing all right but he missed Ennis bad enough sometimes to make him whip babies.

The horses nickered in the darkness beyond the fires circle of light. Ennis put his arm around Jack, pulled him close, said he saw his girls about once a month, Alma, Jr., a shy seventeen-year-old with his beanpole length, Francine a little live wire. Jack slid his cold hand between Enniss legs, said he was worried about his boy who was, no doubt about it, dyslexic or something, couldnt get anything right, fifteen years old and couldnt hardly read, he could see it though goddam Lureen wouldnt admit to it and pretended the kid was O.K., refused to get any bitchin kind a help about it. He didnt know what the fuck the answer was. Lureen had the money and called the shots.

I used a want a boy for a kid, said Ennis, undoing buttons, but just got little girls.

I didnt want none a either kind, said Jack. But fuck-all has worked the way I wanted. Nothin never come to my hand the right way. Without getting up he threw deadwood on the fire, the sparks flying up with their truths and lies, a few hot points of fire landing on their hands and faces, not for the first time, and they rolled down into the dirt. One thing never changed: the brilliant charge of their infrequent couplings was darkened by the sense of time flying, never enough time, never enough.

A day or two later in the trailhead parking lot, horses loaded into the trailer, Ennis was ready to head back to Signal, Jack up to Lightning Flat to see the old man. Ennis leaned into Jacks window, said what hed been putting off the whole week, that likely he couldnt get away again until November, after theyd shipped stock and before winter feeding started.

November. What in hell happened a August? Tell you what, we said August, nine, ten days. Christ, Ennis! Whynt you tell me this before? You had a fuckin week to say some little word about it. And whys it were always in the friggin cold weather? We ought a do somethin. We ought a go South. We ought a go to Mexico one day.

Mexico? Jack, you know me. All the travellin I ever done is goin around the coffeepot lookin for the handle. And Ill be runnin the baler all August, thats whats the matter with August. Lighten up, Jack. We can hunt in November, kill a nice elk. Try if I can get Don Wroes cabin again. We had a good time that year.

You know, friend, this is a goddam bitch of a unsatisfactory situation. You used a come away easy. Its like seein the Pope now.

Jack, I got a work. Them earlier days I used a quit the jobs. You got a wife with money, a good job. You forget how it is bein broke all the time. You ever hear a child support? I been payin out for years and got more to go. Let me tell you, I cant quit this one. And I cant get the time off. It was tough gettin this timesome a them late heifers is still calvin. You dont leave then. You dont. Scrope is a hell-raiser and he raised hell about me takin the week. I dont blame him. He probly aint got a nights sleep since I left. The trade-off was August. You got a better idea?

I did once. The tone was bitter and accusatory.

Ennis said nothing, straightened up slowly, rubbed at his forehead; a horse stamped inside the trailer. He walked to his truck, put his hand on the trailer, said something that only the horses could hear, turned and walked back at a deliberate pace.

You been a Mexico, Jack? Mexico was the place. Hed heard. He was cutting fence now, trespassing in the shoot-em zone.

Hell yes, I been. Wheres the fuckin problem? Braced for it all these years and here it came, late and unexpected.

I got a say this to you one time, Jack, and I aint foolin. What I dont know, said Ennis, all them things I dont know could get you killed if I should come to know them.

Try this one, said Jack, and Ill say it just one time. Tell you what, we could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life. You wouldnt do it, Ennis, so what we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everthing built on that. Its all we got, boy, fuckin all, so I hope you know that if you dont never know the rest. Count the damn few times we been together in twenty years. Measure the fuckin short leash you keep me on, then ask me about Mexico and then tell me youll kill me for needin it and not hardly never gettin it. You got no fuckin idea how bad it gets. Im not you. I cant make it on a couple a high-altitude fucks once or twice a year. Youre too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you.

Like vast clouds of steam from thermal springs in winter the years of things unsaid and now unsayableadmissions, declarations, shames, guilts, fearsrose around them. Ennis stood as if heart-shot, face gray and deep-lined, grimacing, eyes screwed shut, fists clenched, legs caving, hit the ground on his knees.

Jesus, said Jack. Ennis? But before he was out of the truck, trying to guess if it was a heart attack or the overflow of an incendiary rage, Ennis was back on his feet, and somehow, as a coat hanger is straightened to open a locked car and then bent again to its original shape, they torqued things almost to where they had been, for what theyd said was no news. Nothing ended, nothing begun, nothing resolved.

What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.

They had stood that way for a long time in front of the fire, its burning tossing ruddy chunks of light, the shadow of their bodies a single column against the rock. The minutes ticked by from the round watch in Enniss pocket, from the sticks in the fire settling into coals. Stars bit through the wavy heat layers above the fire. Enniss breath came slow and quiet, he hummed, rocked a little in the sparklight, and Jack leaned against the steady heartbeat, the vibrations of the humming like faint electricity and, standing, he fell into sleep that was not sleep but something else drowsy and tranced until Ennis, dredging up a rusty but still usable phrase from the childhood time before his mother died, said, Time to hit the hay, cowboy. I got a go. Come on, youre sleepin on your feet like a horse, and gave Jack a shake, a push, and went off in the darkness. Jack heard his spurs tremble as he mounted, the words See you tomorrow, and the horses shuddering snort, grind of hoof on stone.

Later, that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives. Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see or feel that it was Jack he held. And maybe, he thought, theyd never got much farther than that. Let be, let be.

Ennis didnt know about the accident for months until his postcard to Jack saying that November still looked like the first chance came back stamped deceased. He called Jacks number in Childress, something he had done only once before, when Alma divorced him, and Jack had misunderstood the reason for the call, had driven twelve hundred miles north for nothing. This would be all right; Jack would answer, had to answer. But he did not. It was Lureen and she said who? who is this? and when he told her again she said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came along he had drowned in his own blood.

No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.

Jack used to mention you, she said. Youre the fishing buddy or the hunting buddy, I know that. Would have let you know, she said, but I wasnt sure about your name and address. Jack kept most a his friends addresses in his head. It was a terrible thing. He was only thirty-nine years old.

The huge sadness of the Northern plains rolled down on him. He didnt know which way it was, the tire iron or a real accident, blood choking down Jacks throat and nobody to turn him over. Under the wind drone he heard steel slamming off bone, the hollow chatter of a settling tire rim.

He buried down there? He wanted to curse her for letting Jack die on the dirt road.

The little Texas voice came slip-sliding down the wire, We put a stone up. He use to say he wanted to be cremated, ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain. I didnt know where that was. So he was cremated, like he wanted, and, like I say, half his ashes was interred here, and the rest I sent up to his folks. I thought Brokeback Mountain was around where he grew up. But knowing Jack, it might be some pretend place where the bluebirds sing and theres a whiskey spring.

We herded sheep on Brokeback one summer, said Ennis. He could hardly speak.

Well, he said it was his place. I thought he meant to get drunk. Drink whiskey up there. He drank a lot.

His folks still up in Lightnin Flat?

Oh yeah. Theyll be there until they die. I never met them. They didnt come down for the funeral. You get in touch with them. I suppose theyd appreciate it if his wishes was carried out.

No doubt about it, she was polite but the little voice was as cold as snow.

The road to Lightning Flat went through desolate country past a dozen abandoned ranches distributed over the plain at eight- and ten-mile intervals, houses sitting blank-eyed in the weeds, corral fences down. The mailbox read John C. Twist. The ranch was a meagre little place, leafy spurge taking over. The stock was too far distant for him to see their condition, only that they were black baldies. A porch stretched across the front of the tiny brown stucco house, four rooms, two down, two up.

Ennis sat at the kitchen table with Jacks father. Jacks mother, stout and careful in her movements as though recovering from an operation, said, Want some coffee, dont you? Piece a cherry cake?

Thank you, Maam, Ill take a cup a coffee but I cant eat no cake just now.

The old man sat silent, his hands folded on the plastic tablecloth, staring at Ennis with an angry, knowing expression. Ennis recognized in him a not uncommon type with the hard need to be the stud duck in the pond. He couldnt see much of Jack in either one of them, took a breath.

I feel awful bad about Jack. Cant begin to say how bad I feel. I knew him a long time. I come by to tell you that if you want me to take his ashes up there on Brokeback like his wife says he wanted Id be proud to.

There was a silence. Ennis cleared his throat but said nothing more.

The old man said, Tell you what, I know where Brokeback Mountain is. He thought he was too goddam special to be buried in the family plot.

Jacks mother ignored this, said, He used a come home every year, even after he was married and down in Texas, and help his daddy on the ranch for a week, fix the gates and mow and all. I kept his room like it was when he was a boy and I think he appreciated that. You are welcome to go up in his room if you want.

The old man spoke angrily. I cant get no help out here. Jack used a say, Ennis del Mar, he used a say, Im goin a bring him up here one a these days and well lick this damn ranch into shape. He had some half-baked idea the two a you was goin a move up here, build a log cabin, and help me run this ranch and bring it up. Then this spring hes got another ones goin a come up here with him and build a place and help run the ranch, some ranch neighbor a his from down in Texas. Hes goin a split up with his wife and come back here. So he says. But like most a Jacks ideas it never come to pass.

So now he knew it had been the tire iron. He stood up, said you bet hed like to see Jacks room, recalled one of Jacks stories about this old man. Jack was dick-clipped and the old man was not; it bothered the son, who had discovered the anatomical disconformity during a hard scene. He had been about three or four, he said, always late getting to the toilet, struggling with buttons, the seat, the height of the thing, and often as not left the surroundings sprinkled down. The old man blew up about it and this one time worked into a crazy rage. Christ, he licked the stuffin out a me, knocked me down on the bathroom floor, whipped me with his belt. I thought he was killin me. Then he says, You want a know what its like with piss all over the place? Ill learn you, and he pulls it out and lets go all over me, soaked me, then he throws a towel at me and makes me mop up the floor, take my clothes off and warsh them in the bathtub, warsh out the towel, Im bawlin and blubberin. But while he was hosin me down I seen he had some extra material that I was missin. I seen theyd cut me different like youd crop a ear or scorch a brand. No way to get it right with him after that.

The bedroom, at the top of a steep stair that had its own climbing rhythm, was tiny and hot, afternoon sun pounding through the west window, hitting the narrow boys bed against the wall, an ink-stained desk and wooden chair, a B.B. gun in a hand-whittled rack over the bed. The window looked down on the gravel road stretching south and it occurred to him that for Jacks growing-up years that was the only road he knew. An ancient magazine photograph of some dark-haired movie star was taped to the wall beside the bed, the skin tone gone magenta. He could hear Jacks mother downstairs running water, filling the kettle and setting it back on the stove, asking the old man a muffled question.

The closet was a shallow cavity with a wooden rod braced across, a faded cretonne curtain on a string closing it off from the rest of the room. In the closet hung two pairs of jeans crease-ironed and folded neatly over wire hangers, on the floor a pair of worn packer boots he thought he remembered. At the north end of the closet a tiny jog in the wall made a slight hiding place and here, stiff with long suspension from a nail, hung a shirt. He lifted it off the nail. Jacks old shirt from Brokeback days. The dried blood on the sleeve was his own blood, a gushing nosebleed on the last afternoon on the mountain when Jack, in their contortionistic grappling and wrestling, had slammed Enniss nose hard with his knee. He had stanched the blood, which was everywhere, all over both of them, with his shirtsleeve, but the stanching hadnt held, because Ennis had suddenly swung from the deck and laid the ministering angel out in the wild columbine, wings folded.

The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jacks sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, hed thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jacks own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack, but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.

In the end the stud duck refused to let Jacks ashes go. Tell you what, we got a family plot and hes goin in it. Jacks mother stood at the table coring apples with a sharp, serrated instrument. You come again, she said.

Bumping down the washboard road Ennis passed the country cemetery fenced with sagging sheep wire, a tiny fenced square on the welling prairie, a few graves bright with plastic flowers, and didnt want to know Jack was going in there, to be buried on the grieving plain.

A few weeks later, on the Saturday, he threw all the Coffeepots dirty horse blankets into the back of his pickup and took them down to the Quik Stop Car Wash to turn the high-pressure spray on them. When the wet clean blankets were stowed in the truck bed he stepped into Higgins gift shop and busied himself with the postcard rack.

Ennis, what are you lookin for, rootin through them postcards? said Linda Higgins, throwing a sopping brown coffee filter into the garbage can.

Scene a Brokeback Mountain.

Over in Fremont County?

No, north a here.

I didnt order none a them. Let me get the order list. They got it I can get you a hunderd. I got a order some more cards anyway.

Ones enough, said Ennis.

When it camethirty centshe pinned it up in his trailer, brass-headed tack in each corner. Below it he drove a nail and on the nail he hung a wire hanger and the two old shirts suspended from it. He stepped back and looked at the ensemble through a few stinging tears.

Jack, I swear he said, though Jack had never asked him to swear anything and was himself not the swearing kind.

Around that time Jack began to appear in his dreams, Jack as he had first seen him, curly-headed and smiling and buck-toothed, talking about getting up off his pockets and into the control zone, but the can of beans with the spoon handle jutting out and balanced on the log was there as well, in a cartoon shape and lurid colors that gave the dreams a flavor of comic obscenity. The spoon handle was the kind that could be used as a tire iron. And he would wake sometimes in grief, sometimes with the old sense of joy and release; the pillow sometimes wet, sometimes the sheets.

There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you cant fix it youve got to stand it.

Brokeback Mountain

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