Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
I was grateful that the Frenchman was sitting on the edge of his armchair, as though on the verge of standing up to be shown to the dining room, yet still sitting down, not budging. He was holding an empty glass in both hands, forcing my father, who had just asked him what he thought of the upcoming opera season, to remain seated while he finished answering him.
Dinner was pushed back by another five to ten minutes. If he was late for dinner, he wouldn’t eat with us. But if he was late that meant he was having dinner elsewhere. I didn’t want him to have dinner anywhere but with us tonight.
“Noi ci mettiamo a tavola, we’ll sit down,” said my mother. She asked me to sit next to her.
Oliver’s seat was empty. My mother complained that he should at least have let us know he wasn’t coming for dinner.
Father said it might be the boat’s fault again. That boat should be totally dismantled.
But the boat was downstairs, I said.
“Then it must be the translator. Who was it who told me he needed to see the translator this evening?” asked my mother.
Must not show anxiety. Or that I cared. Stay calm. I didn’t want to bleed again. But that moment of what seemed like bliss now when we’d walked our bikes on the piazzetta both before and after our talk belonged to another time segment, as though it had happened to another me in some other life that was not too different from my own, but removed enough to make the few seconds that kept us apart seem like light-years away. If I put my foot on the floor and pretend that his is just behind the leg of the table, will that foot, like a starship that has turned on its cloaking device, like a ghost summoned by the living, suddenly materialize from its dimple in space and say, I know you’ve beckoned. Reach and you’ll find me?
Before long, my mother’s friend, who, at the last minute, decided to stay for dinner, was asked to sit where I’d sat at lunch. Oliver’s place setting was instantly removed.
The removal was performed summarily, without a hint of regret or compunction, the way you’d remove a bulb that was no longer working, or scrape out the entrails of a butchered sheep that had once been a pet, or take off the sheets and blankets from a bed where someone had died. Here, take these, and remove them from sight. I watched his silverware, his place mat, his napkin, his entire being disappear. It presaged exactly what would happen less than a month from now. I did not look at Mafalda. She hated these last-minute changes at the dinner table. She was shaking her head at Oliver, at my mother, at our world. At me too, I suppose. Without looking at her I knew her eyes were scanning my face to pounce on mine and make eye contact, which was why I avoided lifting my eyes from my semifreddo, which I loved, and which she knew I loved and had placed there for me because, despite the chiding look on her face that was stalking my every glance, she knew I knew she felt sorry for me.