The Peace (of Mind) Offering
She couldn’t get that phone call out of her head.
Its significance had hit her like a bat to the head while they were talking.
“Sure am sorry… we was real good friends…”
His voice had come limping down the wire, sounding strangely remote and lost, as if some part of him had gone missing over the long miles between them.
“We herded sheep up on Brokeback one summer…..”
She knew that had to have been before she ever met Jack. No simple sheep-herding for him after they had hooked up. She had been herding him instead, into a steady life and a steady job and a serious role as husband and father. She’d always thought he went along willingly. She’d always thought they’d had fun, those first years.
But his best place in the world had already been decided, a place where she’d never been and would likely never see - the place he longed to go back to, the place where he wanted to find rest for eternity…
He kept going back to his Wyoming fishing buddy all those years, drove all that way to see him, always happy and eager to be going north, and the other man never once came down to Texas instead.
She tried to imagine how his friend looked. The voice on the phone had been so dull, slow and stunned, devoid of timbre and color, it didn’t give anything away.
Ennis del Mar.
She saw it clearly now, all the things about Jack she had refused to look in the eye. The last bitter truth that had eluded her even after Jack’s horrible death had made more than one sharp sliver of reality pierce her glossy armour. Oh yeah, she was such an expert at denial, wasn’t she? A real pro at keeping up appearances. She’d perfected telling the lie about Jack’s death with a straight and brave face, just the right amount of sadness and stoic resignation in her voice.
But inside she hurt. And as the days went by and that phone call played over and over again in her head, she began imagining that she had heard a corresponding pain etched into each single syllable that distant Wyoming voice had said to her.
She was good with figures, she could easily tally the years those two had met up to go hunting and fishing. At least 18 years since they herded those sheep. Clearly Jack had been constant in his secret life’s inconstancy. She could connect the dots well enough to get the picture.
Up in Wyoming some stranger she’d never met and had hardly ever heard of was mourning Jack every bit as much as she did.
She wondered if he’d gone to see Jack’s rancher parents. She wondered if he’d been given the ashes to honor Jack’s last wish.
She remembered the rare but bitterly disappointed and hurt words Jack had spoken about his father. Remembered the few sad tales he’d told her of growing up with that man. A hard father, and cruel. Having made it as a woman in a man’s world all her life, she’d met many such unforgivingly stubborn stud ducks and knew the type.
If Ennis del Mar had contacted old Mr. Twist, if Jack’s father only as much as suspected what those ashes meant to the other, he’d never let them go. Never. Oh, she knew that without the slightest shadow of a doubt. The old man would have reveled in telling Jack’s friend “no”.
The fishing buddy would be left with nothing. Nothing except memories. And he probably wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone about those.
“We was good friends….”
Well, so were Jack and she, those first years. It wasn’t all indifference, wasn’t all dissatisfaction and distance. They shared some fine times, happy moments, and she had loved him. Never stopped loving him, though the feeling had paled and shrunk and withered from many years’ malnourishment and neglect. She wouldn’t have wanted to go through life without that love, without those early happy moments, without him. Nor did she want now to blame him, or to blame anyone. It was what it was. The good with the bad. Let be.
The realization made something ugly and knotted and misshapen yield inside of her. A tight fist loosened its grip of resentment to let her breathe again, breathe deeply amid the sorrow she now felt more keenly.
She imagined that faceless man, alone with his grief up in Wyoming somewhere. She knew his name, she knew enough to locate his address. She had a shrewd head on her shoulders, after all, and a well-off business to prove it. And the business yielded more than enough boxes and crates to pack and ship things in, come to that.
She knew just what to do, and felt a sudden surge of that fiery take-charge energy that once marked her relationship with Jack.
No time like the present.
Fetching the object her instant plan revolved around, she sat down to take pen in hand and started the difficult task of formulating a brief but polite letter to enclose with the shipment north.
Dear Mr. del Mar,
I am writing to you as I understood from our recent telephone conversation that you were a very good friend of Jack’s. I hereby take the opportunity to send you his most-used hat as a token of remembrance. He did not wear this at the time of his tragic accident.
I hope you will find this gesture meaningful.
Should you think it appropriate, you may perhaps wish to go up to Brokeback Mountain and deposit his hat there in memory of Jack. I am sure he would have appreciated that. He always said it was the place he loved best.
Mrs. Lureen Newsome Twist