Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
We arrived more than forty-five minutes later—less than the time needed to reach distant Albano, where the lights on the lake at night…The place was a large al fresco trattoria with checkered tablecloths and mosquito candles spread out sparely among the diners. By now it must have been eleven o’clock. The air was still very damp. You could see it on our faces, and on our clothes, we looked limp and soggy. Even the tablecloths felt limp and soggy. But the restaurant was on a hill and occasionally a breathless draft would sough through the trees, signifying that tomorrow it would rain again but that the mugginess would remain unchanged.
The waitress, a woman nearing her sixties, made a quick count of how many we were and asked the help to set the tables in a double-sided horseshoe, which was instantly done. Then she told us what we were going to eat and drink. Thank God we don’t have to decide, because with him deciding what to eat—said the poet’s wife—we’d be here for another hour and by then they’d be out of food in the kitchen. She ran down a long list of antipasti, which materialized no sooner than invoked, followed by bread, wine, mineral water, frizzante and naturale. Simple fare, she explained. Simple is what we want, echoed the publisher. “This year, we’re in the red again.”
Once again a toast to the poet. To the publisher. To the store owner. To the wife, the daughters, who else?
Laughter and good fellowship. Ada made a small improvised speech—well, not so improvised, she conceded. Falstaff and Toucan admitted having had a hand in it.
The tortellini in cream sauce arrived more than half an hour later. By then I had decided not to drink wine because the two scotch whiskeys gulped down in a rush were only now starting to have their full effect. The three sisters were sitting between us and everyone on our bench was sitting pressed together. Heaven.
Second course much later: Pot roast, peas. Salad.
One thing led to another, and we began speaking of Bangkok. “Everyone is beautiful, but beautiful in an exceptionally hybrid, crossbred manner, which is why I wanted to go there,” said the poet. “They’re not Asiatic, not Caucasian, and Eurasian is too simple a term. They’re exotic in the purest sense of the word, and yet not alien. We instantly recognize them though we’ve never seen them before, and have no words either for what they stir in us or for what they seem to want from us.
“At first I thought that they thought differently. Then I realized they felt things differently. Then that they were unspeakably sweet, sweet as you can’t imagine anyone being sweet here. Oh, we can be kind and we can be caring and we can be very, very warm in our sunny, passionate Mediterranean way, but they were sweet, selflessly sweet, sweet in their hearts, sweet in their bodies, sweet without a touch of sorrow or malice, sweet like children, without irony or shame. I was ashamed of what I felt for them. This could be paradise, just as I’d fantasized. The twenty-four-year-old night clerk of my rinky-dink hotel, who’s wearing a visorless cap and has seen all types come and go, stares and I stare back. His features are a girl’s. But he looks like a girl who looks like a boy. The girl at the American Express desk stares and I stare back. She looks like a boy who looks like a girl and who’s therefore just a boy. The younger ones, men and women, always giggle when I give them the look. Even the girl at the consulate who speaks fluent Milanese, and the undergraduates who wait at the same hour of each and every morning for the same bus to pick us up, stare at me and I stare back—does all this staring add up to what I think it means, because, like it or not, when it comes to the senses all humans speak the same beastly tongue.”