Two years ago, around this time, I went with my husband to see "Brokeback Mountain." I was in love with Jake Gyllenhall because he's so damn cute and has a special place in my heart because I watched "Bubble Boy" while in the first stages of labor with Jonah. I still haven't gotten over him.
Heath Ledger's character, Ennis, devastated me completely. He reminded me of my grandfather. All the people in that movie reminded me of my grandfather's people. Not too many of them are left on this earth, including my grandfather, and for the first time in awhile I felt their absence in my bones. I missed their speech and their smell (cornbread, bacon and coffee). Ennis captured some essence of my grandfather that I have not been able to catch in my own writing. I felt that Grandpa and his whole generation were wiped out or close to it, and the world was poorer for it. I sure was.
And then the story, well, the story I had read years ago when I was in love with E. Annie Prouxl's writing. It blew me away because she matter-of-factly portrayed two Montana tough guys as lovers, though lovers in the most animal sense. More accurate would be to call them fuckers, because in the story, that's what they did, on hard floors and in the dirt. It was violent and they hated each other for it.
"Brokeback Mountain" director, Ang Lee, kept this essence and added so much more to create a decades-long love/hate story, and told of the destruction of all the lives caught in its orbit. That tragedy, all the tragedies strung together, churned up more longing, regret, and sadness my body.
And then there was the wife of Ennis, who did her laundry by hand in the kitchen sink while the kids cried in their cribs. This was the life my grandmother had when she was sixteen, eighteen, twenty. This is the life so many women have, in fact, most of us mothers have, one way or another. At the time I saw the movie, my second baby was a year old, and I was unable to assimilate to the life of mothering two toddlers. I didn't have to wash my clothes on a washboard in the sink, and I didn't live on a ground floor apartment around the corner from my grocery store job on a Texas plain, but for some reason I couldn't shake that image of Michelle Williams scrubbing clothes and yelling at Heath Ledger to please pick up one of the dirty babies.
Plus there was the painful, devastating love between the two men that was never fully realized and never calmed. That terrible love that made them sick and crazy.
AFter the movie, my husband and I went home and went to bed. I didn't get up again for about two weeks. It wasn't the movie that did it to me, really; I was primed for a breakdown. I'd been yelling and crying for weeks. Something about my life had gotten out of control. But the spirit of that movie, and Heath Ledger's performance in particular, opened a gate to my own inner drama and my own pain.
There was no question of fighting what came. It was as if the ocean decided to roll over me, take me out, fill me with its salt and force me down to the muddy floor where the mutated, one-eyed creatures live.
I'll never get over Heath.