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



The trip wire loomed at all hours of the night. An owl, the sound of Oliver’s own window shutters squeaking against the wind, the music from a distant, all-night discotheque in an adjoining hill town, the scuffling of cats very late at night, or the creak of the wooden lintel of my bedroom door, anything could wake me. But I’d known these since childhood and, like a sleeping fawn flicking his tail at an intrusive insect, knew how to brush them away and fall instantly back to sleep. Sometimes, though, a mere nothing, like a sense of dread or shame, would slip its way out of my sleep and hover undefined about me and watch me sleep and, bending down to my ear, finally whisper, I’m not trying to wake you, I’m really not, go back to sleep, Elio, keep sleeping—while I made every effort to recover the dream I was about to reenter any moment now and could almost rescript if only I tried a bit harder.

But sleep would not come, and sure enough not one but two troubling thoughts, like paired specters materializing out of the fog of sleep, stood watch over me: desire and shame, the longing to throw open my window and, without thinking, run into his room stark-naked, and, on the other hand, my repeated inability to take the slightest risk to bring any of this about. There they were, the legacy of youth, the two mascots of my life, hunger and fear, watching over me, saying, So many before you have taken the chance and been rewarded, why can’t you? No answer. So many have balked, so why must you? No answer. And then it came, as ever deriding me: If not later, Elio, when?

That night, yet again, an answer did come, though it came in a dream that was itself a dream within a dream. I awoke with an image that told me more than I wanted to know, as though, despite all of my frank admissions to myself about what I wanted from him, and how I’d want it, there were still a few corners I’d avoided. In this dream I finally learned what my body must have known from the very first day. We were in his room, and, contrary to all my fantasies, it was not I who had my back on the bed, but Oliver; I was on top of him, watching, on his face, an expression at once so flushed, so readily acquiescent, that even in my sleep it tore every emotion out of me and told me one thing I could never have known or guessed so far: that not to give what I was dying to give him at whatever price was perhaps the greatest crime I might ever commit in my life. I desperately wanted to give him something. By contrast, taking seemed so bland, so facile, so mechanical. And then I heard it, as I knew by now I would. “You’ll kill me if you stop,” he was gasping, conscious that he’d already spoken these selfsame words to me a few nights before in another dream but that, having said them once, he was also free to repeat them whenever he came into my dreams, even though neither of us seemed to know whether it was his voice that was breaking from inside me or whether my memory of these very words was exploding in him. His face, which seemed both to endure my passion and by doing so to abet it, gave me an image of kindness and fire I had never seen and could never have imagined on anyone’s face before. This very image of him would become like a night-light in my life, keeping vigil on those days when I’d all but given up, rekindling my desire for him when I wanted it dead, stoking the embers of courage when I feared a snub might dispel every semblance of pride. The look on his face became like the tiny snapshot of a beloved that soldiers take with them to the battlefield, not only to remember there are good things in life and that happiness awaits them, but to remind themselves that this face might never forgive them for coming back in a body bag.