Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
We were to meet at the same spot on the beach the following evening. I’d be there before her, I said.
“Just don’t tell anyone,” she said.
I motioned that my mouth was zipped shut.
“We almost did it,” I told both my father and Oliver the next morning as we were having breakfast.
“And why didn’t you?” asked my father.
“Better to have tried and failed…” Oliver was half mocking and half comforting me with that oft-rehashed saw. “All I had to do was find the courage to reach out and touch, she would have said yes,” I said, partly to parry further criticism from either of them but also to show that when it came to self-mockery, I could administer my own dose, thank you very much. I was showing off.
“Try again later,” said Oliver. This was what people who were okay with themselves did. But I could also sense he was onto something and wasn’t coming out with it, perhaps because there was something mildly disquieting behind his fatuous though well-intentioned try again later. He was criticizing me. Or making fun of me. Or seeing through me.
It stung me when he finally came out with it. Only someone who had completely figured me out would have said it. “If not later, when?”
My father liked it. “If not later, when?” It echoed Rabbi Hillel’s famous injunction, “If not now, when?”
Oliver instantly tried to take back his stinging remark. “I’d definitely try again. And again after that,” came the watered-down version. But try again later was the veil he’d drawn over If not later, when?
I repeated his phrase as if it were a prophetic mantra meant to reflect how he lived his life and how I was attempting to live mine. By repeating this mantra that had come straight from his mouth, I might trip on a secret passageway to some nether truth that had hitherto eluded me, about me, about life, about others, about me with others.
Try again later were the last words I’d spoken to myself every night when I’d sworn to do something to bring Oliver closer to me. Try again later meant, I haven’t the courage now. Things weren’t ready just yet. Where I’d find the will and the courage to try again later I didn’t know. But resolving to do something rather than sit passively made me feel that I was already doing something, like reaping a profit on money I hadn’t invested, much less earned yet.
But I also knew that I was circling wagons around my life with try again laters, and that months, seasons, entire years, a lifetime could go by with nothing but Saint Try-again-later stamped on every day. Try again later worked for people like Oliver. If not later, when? was my shibboleth.
If not later, when? What if he had found me out and uncovered each and every one of my secrets with those four cutting words?
I had to let him know I was totally indifferent to him.