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

We had never taken a shower together. We had never even been in the same bathroom together. “Don’t flush,” I’d said, “I want to look.” What I saw brought out strains of compassion, for him, for his body, for his life, which suddenly seemed so frail and vulnerable. “Our bodies won’t have secrets now,” I said as I took my turn and sat down. He had hopped into the bathtub and was just about to turn on the shower. “I want you to see mine,” I said. He did more. He stepped out, kissed me on the mouth, and, pressing and massaging my tummy with the flat of his palm, watched the whole thing happen.

I wanted no secrets, no screens, nothing between us. Little did I know that if I relished the gust of candor that bound us tighter each time we swore my body is your body, it was also because I enjoyed rekindling the tiny lantern of unsuspected shame. It cast a spare glow precisely where part of me would have preferred the dark. Shame trailed instant intimacy. Could intimacy endure once indecency was spent and our bodies had run out of tricks?

I don’t know that I asked the question, just as I am not sure I am able to answer it today. Was our intimacy paid for in the wrong currency?

Or is intimacy the desired product no matter where you find it, how you acquire it, what you pay for it—black market, gray market, taxed, untaxed, under the table, over the counter?

All I knew was that I had nothing left to hide from him. I had never felt freer or safer in my life.

We were alone together for three days, we knew no one in the city, I could be anyone, say anything, do anything. I felt like a war prisoner who’s suddenly been released by an invading army and told that he can start heading home now, no forms to fill out, no debriefing, no questions asked, no buses, no gate passes, no clean clothes to stand in line for—just start walking.

We showered. We wore each other’s clothes. We wore each other’s underwear. It was my idea.

Perhaps all this gave him a second wind of silliness, of youth.

Perhaps he had already been “there” years earlier and was stopping for a short stay on his return journey home.

Perhaps he was playing along, watching me.

Perhaps he had never done it with anyone and I’d showed up in the nick of time.

He took his manuscript, his sunglasses, and we shut the door to our hotel room. Like two live wires. We stepped outside the elevator door. Broad smiles for everyone. To the hotel personnel. To the flower vendor in the street. To the girl in the newspaper kiosk.

Smile, and the world smiles back. “Oliver, I’m happy,” I said.

He looked at me in wonderment. “You’re just horny.”

“No, happy.”

Along the way we caught sight of a human statue of Dante cloaked in red with an exaggerated aquiline nose and the most scornful frown limned on all his features. The red toga and the red bell cap and the thick-rimmed wooden spectacles gave his already stern face the wizened look of an implacable father confessor. A crowd had gathered around the great bard, who stood motionless on the pavement, his arms crossed defiantly, the whole body standing erect, like a man waiting for Virgil or for an overdue bus. As soon as a tourist threw a coin into a hollowed-out, antique book, he simulated the besotted air of a Dante who’s just spied his Beatrice ambling across the Ponte Vecchio and, craning his cobralike neck, would right away moan out, like a street performer spitting fire,