Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
What I feared most were the days when I didn’t see him for stretches at a time—entire afternoons and evenings sometimes without knowing where he’d been. I’d sometimes spot him crossing the piazzetta or talking to people I’d never seen there. But that didn’t count, because in the small piazzetta where people gathered around closing time, he seldom gave me a second look, just a nod which might have been intended less for me than for my father, whose son I happened to be.
My parents, my father especially, couldn’t have been happier with him. Oliver was working out better than most of our summer residents. He helped my father organize his papers, managed a good deal of his foreign correspondence, and was clearly coming along with his own book. What he did in his private life and his time was his business—If youth must canter, then who’ll do the galloping? was my father’s clumsy adage. In our household, Oliver could do no wrong.
Since my parents never paid any attention to his absences, I thought it was safer never to show that they caused me any anxiety. I mentioned his absence only when one of them wondered where he’d been; I would pretend to look as startled as they were. Oh, that’s right, he’s been gone so long. No, no idea. And I had to worry not to look too startled either, for that might ring false and alert them to what was eating at me. They’d know bad faith as soon as they spotted it. I was surprised they hadn’t already. They had always said I got too easily attached to people. This summer, though, I finally realized what they meant by being too easily attached. Obviously, it had happened before, and they must have already picked up on it when I was probably too young to notice anything myself. It had sent alarming ripples through their lives. They worried for me. I knew they were right to worry. I just hoped they’d never know how far things stood beyond their ordinary worries now. I knew they didn’t suspect a thing, and it bothered me—though I wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise. It told me that if I were no longer transparent and could disguise so much of my life, then I was finally safe from them, and from him—but at what price, and did I want to be so safe from anyone?
There was no one to speak to. Whom could I tell? Mafalda? She’d leave the house. My aunt? She’d probably tell everyone. Marzia, Chiara, my friends? They’d desert me in a second. My cousins when they came? Never. My father held the most liberal views—but on this? Who else? Write to one of my teachers? See a doctor? Say I needed a shrink? Tell Oliver?
Tell Oliver. There is no one else to tell, Oliver, so I’m afraid it’s going to have to be you…
One afternoon, when I knew that the house was totally empty, I went up to his room. I opened his closet and, as this was my room when there were no residents, pretended to be looking for something I’d left behind in one of the bottom drawers. I’d planned to rifle through his papers, but as soon as I opened his closet, I saw it. Hanging on a hook was this morning’s red bathing suit which he hadn’t swum in, which was why it was hanging there and not drying on the balcony. I picked it up, never in my life having pried into anyone’s personal belongings before. I brought the bathing suit to my face, then rubbed my face inside of it, as if I were trying to snuggle into it and lose myself inside its folds—So this is what he smells like when his body isn’t covered in suntan lotion, this is what he smells like, this is what he smells like, I kept repeating to myself, looking inside the suit for something more personal yet than his smell and then kissing every corner of it, almost wishing to find hair, anything, to lick it, to put the whole bathing suit into my mouth, and, if I could only steal it, keep it with me forever, never ever let Mafalda wash it, turn to it in the winter months at home and, on sniffing it, bring him back to life, as naked as he was with me at this very moment. On impulse, I removed my bathing suit and began to put his on. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted it with the kind of intoxicated rapture that makes people take risks they would never take even with plenty of alcohol in their system. I wanted to come in his suit, and leave the evidence for him to find there. Which was when a crazier notion possessed me. I undid his bed, took off his suit, and cuddled it between his sheets, naked. Let him find me—I’ll deal with it, one way or another. I recognized the feel of the bed. My bed. But the smell of him was all around me, wholesome and forgiving, like the strange scent which had suddenly come over my entire body when an elderly man who happened to be standing right next to me in a temple on Yom Kippur placed his tallis over my head till I had all but disappeared and was now united with a nation that is forever dispersed but which, from time to time, comes together again when one being and another wrap themselves under the same piece of cloth. I put his pillow over my face, kissed it savagely, and, wrapping my legs around it, told it what I lacked the courage to tell everyone else in the world. Then I told him what I wanted. It took less than a minute.