I haven't left you, friend. I could never do that. Believe me. I tried.
This is how it will be. I will not be a lonely forgotten soul because of you. Because of the sound of the empty room you sit in in silence, not crying, just thinking. Remembering. In the silence of the room, maybe you'll be able to hear me. Hear these words. Better yet, you may finally be able to hear yourself.
It's better this way, you know. It doesn't have to be a lie anymore.
Do this. Go up to the mountain in the summer when the sun is out making all the colors the brightest and everything looks like it's on fire, the water blue flame and the rock dark, cooled embers. Here you never have to be alone and you never have to bury what you feel. You can bleed your agony. You can scream in pain, loud and proud like an eagle. Shout our secret to the free sky, open and gaping like the mouth of a snake right before it sinks its teeth into your heel and kills you. You'll hit the ground and feel the pain slowly die away and go numb, and then you'll be truly free, part of that sky.
Remember. Remember the time I cradled your head against my chest while you slept with me under the stars and you were almost mine. You whispered things in your sleep that I somehow knew would not unconsciously come out of your mouth if you were in the arms of anyone else. In the moments like that you were like a little bird I had slowly and patiently coaxed into my palm. I was afraid if I moved too suddenly or spoke too loudly you would get startled and fly off, like a feather floating away when you blow on it. All I dared do was think the words please stay with the most careful delicacy. Not too much. I knew if I let myself want you too much, my hand would only feel more empty when you were scared off and flew out of it.
I tried not to feel too much, but unfortunately these things tend to take you more powerfully when they do it without you wanting them to, or without you even knowing it when they do. It was like how it must have felt the day you became a father, and waiting in the unbearably sterile white hospital you stood with your hands stubbornly buried in your pockets and thinking, It's a mistake. Even as you knew this was a time to be happy and proud, you could feel deep in your gut that something about everything was wrong. It was so wrong you didn't know if you would feel any real attachment to this child, as if she wasn't even really yours. But then she came out and they wrapped her up in a little blue blanket, and when they first handed her to you you were scared of how light she felt, like you could easily forget she was there and let go of her. You had never handled anything so gently. You did not choose to be, but nevertheless you were owned by that tiny bundle of life from the moment she looked up at her daddy with those big, heart-stopping eyes. You felt weightless even though this was truly the moment you were losing the wings. You couldn't feel the chains snaking up around you, binding you to the ground. There was no going back now. Another life you may have known was nothing anymore. From then on you were tied down in this place.
Once when Lureen and I went to Bobby's school to have a conference with one of his teachers, she and the lady got to talking about recipes or something and I started wandering around the classroom. In an old psychology textbook I found a quote that said, "Love is like a wind stirring the grass beneath trees on a black night. You must not try to make love definite. It is the divine accident of life." I tore it out of the page and put it in my pocket before Lureen looked over and said with a laugh, "Honey, what are you doin' over there? Let's go." I carried it with me for months and looked at it every once in a while, entertaining thoughts of sending it to you without my name on the envelope. I don't know why. I'm sure you would have known in a dark place in the back of your head that it was from me but never said anything. It stayed in my coat pocket long after I knew it for memory, until Lureen washed the coat one day and it turned into just a little wad of soggy paper. Even though I knew the words by heart it was no good now. Sending you a little scrap of paper in the mail was one thing. Telling you was another. I know you were always the quiet one, but I couldn't say the words either. Not back then. Back then I wasn't even completely sure what that quote meant.
Words like "love" and "always" and "happily ever after" could never be ours. God knows I wanted us to have that. I wanted you to be able to make a home inside me, the bird living comfortably in his birdhouse, not just perched fleetingly and weightlessly in the palm of a hand, with so many fears and hesitations restraining every moment from what it should be - perfect bliss. I wanted to be able to watch that peaceful look on your face while you sleep every single night, not just on rare and precious occasions. I wanted us to find the light, the way to say the words - but back then there was no language to express them and we didn't know what they were. But it's all right. Now there are no words anymore. We know, and that's all that matters. What we have is the silence of the room.
Listen. Through the window you can hear the sounds of the mountain - the wind in the trees and the bodies of water running through it. They are the blood running through your veins. And that's where I will always be. It doesn't matter what they do with my ashes - I'll find my way back there to the place we both left ourselves behind so long ago, to make you and me us again. Now that I have had everything taken away from me I can finally have everything. I finally have you. All of your shame is gone, and now I have comfort in the idea that your thoughts will linger adoringly on me always, free of any hesitation or fear. We know now. We've found the light in the black night, the luminous truth of what it was we had. And nothing can take that away from us.
Author's Note: The quote that this story's title is part of really was in a psychology textbook, which my sister found in a storage room at our high school (long story) with a bunch of stuff not being used anymore, and she tore it out and has it taped on her bedroom door now. One day lately I walked by her door and read it and it just seemed perfect for Jack and Ennis to me. When I posted this fanfic in brokebackslashon LiveJournal, someone was able to tell me that the quote is from the short story by Sheerwood Anderson called "Death." So there's my disclaimer for that bit.