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

Oliver timido? That was new. Could all of his gruff Americanisms be nothing more than an exaggerated way of covering up the simple fact that he didn’t know—or feared he didn’t know—how to take his leave gracefully? It reminded me of how for days he had refused to eat soft-boiled eggs in the morning. By the fourth or fifth day, Mafalda insisted he couldn’t leave the region without tasting our eggs. He finally consented, only to admit, with a touch of genuine embarrassment that he never bothered to conceal, that he didn’t know how to open a soft-boiled egg. “Lasci fare a me, Signor Ulliva, leave it to me,” she said. From that morning on and well into his stay with us, she would bring Ulliva two eggs and stop serving everyone until she had sliced open the shell of both his eggs.

Did he perhaps want a third? she asked. Some people liked more than two eggs. No, two would do, he replied, and, turning to my parents, added, “I know myself. If I have three, I’ll have a fourth, and more.” I had never heard someone his age say, I know myself. It intimidated me.

But she had been won over well before, on his third morning with us, when she asked him if he liked juice in the morning, and he’d said yes. He was probably expecting orange or grapefruit juice; what he got was a large glass filled to the rim with thick apricot juice. He had never had apricot juice in his life. She stood facing him with her salver flat against her apron, trying to make out his reaction as he quaffed it down. He said nothing at first. Then, probably without thinking, he smacked his lips. She was in heaven. My mother couldn’t believe that people who taught at world-famous universities smacked their lips after downing apricot juice. From that day on, a glass of the stuff was waiting for him every morning.

He was baffled to know that apricot trees existed in, of all places, our orchard. On late afternoons, when there was nothing to do in the house, Mafalda would ask him to climb a ladder with a basket and pick those fruits that were almost blushing with shame, she said. He would joke in Italian, pick one out, and ask, Is this one blushing with shame? No, she would say, this one is too young still, youth has no shame, shame comes with age.

I shall never forget watching him from my table as he climbed the small ladder wearing his red bathing trunks, taking forever to pick the ripest apricots. On his way to the kitchen—wicker basket, espadrilles, billowy shirt, suntan lotion, and all—he threw me a very large one, saying, “Yours,” in just the same way he’d throw a tennis ball across the court and say, “Your serve.” Of course, he had no idea what I’d been thinking minutes earlier, but the firm, rounded cheeks of the apricot with their dimple in the middle reminded me of how his body had stretched across the boughs of the tree with his tight, rounded ass echoing the color and the shape of the fruit. Touching the apricot was like touching him. He would never know, just as the people we buy the newspaper from and then fantasize about all night have no idea that this particular inflection on their face or that tan along their exposed shoulder will give us no end of pleasure when we’re alone.