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 goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.”

After their first sexual encounter on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis and Jack quickly fall into a passionate relationship—one in which, as this passage attests, actions speak much louder than words. The verbal silence that accompanies their sex hints at a relationship so fragile that to rationalize, explain, or defend it would put an end to its pleasure. Indeed, whenever Jack and Ennis give voice to their doubts, hopes, and fears, it results in an argument, not a resolution. There is, literally, no way for the men to talk their way into a good ending to their story. A similar wordlessness accompanies Ennis’s lovemaking with Alma, and it too suggests the desire not to express the harsh reality of the situation at hand. The choice few words that are spoken between Jack and Ennis in this passage are desperate denials of the truth. Jack and Ennis have much more than a one-shot deal; their relationship is decades long. And although they try to tell each other that it isn’t anyone else’s business, the prevailing homophobic viewpoint is very much a third party in their love affair. At this early point in their relationship, alone on the mountain, it is easy and uncomplicated for the men to lie to themselves and each other. Over time, however, this denial becomes harder and harder to pull off—until, finally, it becomes impossible.