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Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)

“Out came a hand that touched my cheek and stayed there, as if to soothe away the shock and surprise. Better now?

“I nodded.

“You need another.

“And you do too, I said, pouring her a drink this time.

“I asked her why she purposely misled people into thinking she was a man. I was expecting, It’s safer for business—or something a bit more rakish, like: For moments such as these.

“Then came the giggle, this time for real, as if she had committed a naughty prank but was not in the least bit displeased or surprised by the result. But I am a man, she said.

“She was nodding away at my disbelief, as if the nod itself were part of the same prank.

“You’re a man? I asked, no less disappointed than when I discovered she was a woman.

“I’m afraid so.

“With both elbows on the table he leaned forward and almost touched my nose with the tip of his and said: I like you very, very much, Signor Alfredo. And you like me too, very, very much—and the beautiful thing is we both know it.

“I stared at him, at her, who knows. Let’s have another, I said.

“I was going to suggest it, said my impish friend.

“Do you want me man or woman? she/he asked, as if one could scale one’s way back up our phylogenetic tree.

“I didn’t know what answer to give. I wanted to say, I want you as intermezzo. So I said, I want you as both, or as in between.

“He seemed taken aback.

“Naughty, naughty, he said, as though for the first time that night I’d actually managed to shock him with something thoroughly debauched.

“When he stood up to go to the bathroom, I noticed she was indeed a woman wearing a dress and high-heeled shoes. I couldn’t help staring at the most lovely skin on her most lovely ankles.

“She knew she had caught me yet once more and started to giggle in earnest.

“Will you watch my purse? she asked. She must have sensed that if she hadn’t asked me to watch something of hers, I would probably have paid the bill and left the bar.

“This, in a nutshell, is what I call the San Clemente Syndrome.”

There was applause, and it was affectionate applause. We not only liked the story but the man telling the story.

“Evviva il sindromo di San Clemente,” said Straordinario-fantastico.

“Sindromo is not masculine, it’s feminine, la sindrome,” corrected someone sitting next to her.

“Evviva la sindrome di San Clemente,” hailed someone who was clearly aching to shout something. He, along with a few others, had arrived very late for dinner, crying in good Roman dialect Lassatece passà, let us through, to the restaurant owners as a way of announcing his arrival to the company. Everyone had long since started eating. His car had taken a wrong turn around Ponte Milvio. Then he couldn’t find the restaurant, etc. As a result he missed the first two courses. He was now sitting at the very end of the table and he as well as those he had brought with him from the bookstore had been given the last of the cheeses remaining in the house. This plus two flans for each, because this was all that was left. He made up for the missing food with too much wine. He had heard most of the poet’s speech on San Clemente.