Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
Yours, like Later!, had an off-the-cuff, unceremonious, here, catch quality that reminded me how twisted and secretive my desires were compared to the expansive spontaneity of everything about him. It would never have occurred to him that in placing the apricot in my palm he was giving me his ass to hold or that, in biting the fruit, I was also biting into that part of his body that must have been fairer than the rest because it never apricated—and near it, if I dared to bite that far, his apricock.
In fact, he knew more about apricots than we did—their grafts, etymology, origins, fortunes in and around the Mediterranean. At the breakfast table that morning, my father explained that the name for the fruit came from the Arabic, since the word—in Italian, albicocca, abricot in French, aprikose in German, like the words “algebra,” “alchemy,” and “alcohol”—was derived from an Arabic noun combined with the Arabic article al- before it. The origin of albicocca was al-birquq. My father, who couldn’t resist not leaving well enough alone and needed to top his entire performance with a little fillip of more recent vintage, added that what was truly amazing was that, in Israel and in many Arab countries nowadays, the fruit is referred to by a totally different name: mishmish.
My mother was nonplussed. We all, including my two cousins who were visiting that week, had an impulse to clap.
On the matter of etymologies, however, Oliver begged to differ. “Ah?!” was my father’s startled response.
“The word is actually not an Arabic word,” he said.
My father was clearly mimicking Socratic irony, which would start with an innocent “You don’t say,” only then to lead his interlocutor onto turbulent shoals.
“It’s a long story, so bear with me, Pro.” Suddenly Oliver had become serious. “Many Latin words are derived from the Greek. In the case of ‘apricot,’ however, it’s the other way around; the Greek takes over from Latin. The Latin word was praecoquum, from pre-coquere, pre-cook, to ripen early, as in ‘precocious,’ meaning premature.
“The Byzantines borrowed praecox, and it became prekokkia or berikokki, which is finally how the Arabs must have inherited it as al-birquq.”
My mother, unable to resist his charm, reached out to him and tousled his hair and said, “Che muvi star!”
“He is right, there is no denying it,” said my father under his breath, as though mimicking the part of a cowered Galileo forced to mutter the truth to himself.
“Courtesy of Philology 101,” said Oliver.
All I kept thinking of was apricock precock, precock apricock.
One day I saw Oliver sharing the same ladder with the gardener, trying to learn all he could about Anchise’s grafts, which explained why our apricots were larger, fleshier, juicier than most apricots in the region. He became fascinated with the grafts, especially when he discovered that the gardener could spend hours sharing everything he knew about them with anyone who cared to ask.
Oliver, it turned out, knew more about all manner of foods, cheeses, and wines than all of us put together. Even Mafalda was wowed and would, on occasion, defer to his opinion—Do you think I should lightly fry the paste with either onions or sage? Doesn’t it taste too lemony now? I ruined it, didn’t I? I should have added an extra egg—it’s not holding! Should I use the new blender or should I stick to the old mortar and pestle? My mother couldn’t resist throwing in a barb or two. Like all caubois, she said: they know everything there is to know about food, because they can’t hold a knife and fork properly. Gourmet aristocrats with plebian manners. Feed him in the kitchen.