That morning I woke up to one of my two little finches dead on the bottom of its birdcage. I buried him in the garden and it broke my heart.
I was still sad about the little guy when the car began to shake violently driving up the mountain and it didn't take long for the engine to lock up.
I tried to tell Jesse, "pullover before your car is fucked", but it was too late. We jumped out and pushed it off the side of the road avoiding letting it roll down the side of the mountain.
I looked over at Jesse and I could see something very locked up in his eyes. This car was the backbone of his newly reformed life. He had finally pulled everything together, was back in school, had a job delivering newspapers with his car, and then this shit happened.
I knew the car was completely fucked and it would take forever for someone to stop for us so I grab one of the beers we were going drink in the Red River, from the back with the fishing gear, and I went and sat up on the hillside and popped the top. Jesse looked despondent as he stared into the baked engine. I felt so bad for him. He was a great friend to me and I cared deeply for him. I knew things were tough for him but he was fighting, and I hated to see this kind of set back.
Jesse was a great soul, he was always more comfortable in nature, and did his best to drag me out to the rivers to fish as often as he could. He knew it was good for me, and he seemed to be truly invested in my health and well being. He knew there was light in the river, he knew it was medicine, and I loved to see him in his element, full of life, in awe of life.
Eventually, we caught a ride back to Taos, abandoning his car. As we get dropped off at my place, the neighbor lady hearing the bad news gifts Jesse a bottle of whiskey to ease his sorrows. So we decided to have a few drinks and fire up the BBQ. I told him to invite over his girlfriend Haley to keep my girlfriend Christine company.
The four of us stood out front next to the grill and drank in the driveway. The sun had gone down and the stars were out. Jesse stared up at the sky looking for UFO’s as he usually does when he sees something strange, but it turns out to just be a medical helicopter on its way to the hospital to pick up some unfortunate soul who needs to be flown to a proper Santa Fe Hospital. We ate steak, and it was amazing, we mastered the grill, and were on our way to manhood.
Jesse was getting pretty glossy eyed off the whiskey. He squatted near the ground like he always did, smoking a cigarette looking up at the stars and then down at the dirt and pebbles. Then he suddenly, but not surprisingly, brought up Kim. Haley was used to him talking about his ex by now. We all knew Jesse really missed her. We all did.
“I'm going to drive out to California and find those guys who killed her.” He says.
Kim had been living in Northern California with a few guys who popped a few date rape pills into her drink one night, she passed out and vomited and asphyxiating in her sleep. Jesse had been deeply depressed and disturbed by her death and had become quite obsessed with the thought of seeking vengeance for Kim. We all knew Kim was Jesse's first true love, and, I secretly also wondered if she was mine. There was a night during a blizzard one winter years after they broke up, when I fell for her hummingbird eyes, eyes that would vibrate, eyelashes that fluttered. She was magic, but she was inevitably Jesses’ girl.
It was getting chilly, but we were drunk.
“Do you remember that night?” Jesse broke the silence catching me off guard. I tried to not understand the question, but I knew what he was asking, I had been waiting years for him to ask, and he knew I knew what he was asking me.
I panicked and for a minute was a little bit afraid of Jesse with his glazed over eyes, but to me, Jesse was the guy who made me stop after hitting a chipmunk on the forest road so he could harvest it's meat with his pocket night, because it would be disrespectful not to honor its life by not harvesting the meat. I'm not sure why, but the thought that he made me stop the car so he could get out and gut it, wrap it up in his handkerchief and throw it up on the dashboard, to take home for the freezer, made me feel a bit safer.
I knew Jesse respected me, but suddenly I wondered if I had respected him? So when he asked me again, do you remember that night?", shamefully, I said 'no'. After a few silent moments, he stood up trying to maintain his balance.
“Goodnight Mr. Zimmerman”.
“Goodnight man.” I said giving him a hug.
Jesse and Haley left, and Christine and I went to bed. Not long after I passed out, I wake to Christine yelling “Wake up! Jesse just shot himself, they are flying him to Santa Fe. Haley needs a ride down to the hospital. She is on her way over, can you take her?”
“What?” I asked. "What, are you fucking serious?"
I sat up on the edge of the bed frozen and thought to myself "the son of a bitch did it, he went after Kim, what fucking nerve, what fucking love" and I felt deep shame and guilt. I could hear the helicopter overhead so I walked out the front door to the driveway and I looked up at Jesse and said, “I will never forget that night, nor will I ever get over of this night for the rest of my life. Goodbye Jesse, I love you.” Then I dropped to my knees and cried. Jesse had put a 9mm to his temple and pulled the trigger, it was obvious that they were just flying him to Santa Fe to harvest the meat.
Soon someone dropped Haley off, she was covered in blood, Jesse's brains were still in her hair, she obviously wasn't ready to let him go. She was deeply in shock. We drove her down the canyon road along the river toward Santa Fe. The rapids of the Rio Grande shimmered in the crisp late fall moonlight. Everyone was silent and cold, too cold to cry.
All I could think about during the ride was how Jesse always wanted to catch a Trout with his bare hands, and how the last time he went fishing, he stood in the middle of the river bent down to the water palms placed just above the surface, when suddenly he grasped into the water with both hands, and pulled up a beautiful rainbow trout and looked it in the eyes with disbelief, then he kissed it on the forehead and threw it back in the water. He looked up with electricity in his eyes, as though god was peering through him, he was fully alive and he knew it.
Although brain dead, they kept Jesse on artificial life support for almost a week while they waited for someone to finally come harvest his organs, Haley sat with Jesse until the end in honor of his life. A week later I unenrolled myself as an organ donor.