Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Online (FREE)
For weeks I had mistaken his stare for barefaced hostility. I was wide of the mark. It was simply a shy man’s way of holding someone else’s gaze.
We were, it finally dawned on me, the two shyest persons in the world.
My father was the only one who had seen through him from the very start.
“Do you like Leopardi?” I asked, to break the silence, but also to suggest that it was the topic of Leopardi that had caused me to seem somewhat distracted during a pause in our conversation.
“Yes, very much.”
“I like him very much too.”
I’d always known I wasn’t speaking about Leopardi. The question was, did he?
“I knew I was making you uncomfortable, but I just had to make sure.”
“So you knew all this time?”
“Let’s say I was pretty sure.”
In other words, it had started just days after his arrival. Had everything since been pretense, then? And all these swings between friendship and indifference—what were they? His and my ways of keeping stealthy tabs on each other while disclaiming that we were? Or were they simply as cunning a way as any to stave each other off, hoping that what we felt was indeed genuine indifference?
“Why didn’t you give me a sign?” I said.
“I did. At least I tried.”
“After tennis once. I touched you. Just as a way of showing I liked you. The way you reacted made me feel I’d almost molested you. I decided to keep my distance.”
Our best moments were in the afternoon. After lunch, I’d go upstairs for a nap just when coffee was about to be served. Then, when the lunch guests had left, or slunk away to rest in the guesthouse, my father would either retire to his study or steal a nap with my mother. By two in the afternoon, an intense silence would settle over the house, over the world it seemed, interrupted here and there either by the cooing of doves or by Anchise’s hammer when he worked on his tools and was trying not to make too much noise. I liked hearing him at work in the afternoon, and even when his occasional banging or sawing woke me up, or when the knife grinder would start his whetstone running every Wednesday afternoon, it left me feeling as restful and at peace with the world as I would feel years later on hearing a distant foghorn off Cape Cod in the middle of the night. Oliver liked to keep the windows and shutters wide open in the afternoon, with just the swelling sheer curtains between us and life beyond, because it was a “crime” to block away so much sunlight and keep such a landscape from view, especially when you didn’t have it all life long, he said. Then the rolling fields of the valley leading up to the hills seemed to sit in a rising mist of olive green: sunflowers, grapevines, swatches of lavender, and those squat and humble olive trees stooping like gnarled, aged scarecrows gawking through our window as we lay naked on my bed, the smell of his sweat, which was the smell of my sweat, and next to me my man-woman whose man-woman I was, and all around us Mafalda’s chamomile-scented laundry detergent, which was the scent of the torrid afternoon world of our house.