Call Me by Your Name

Free Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Book: Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman Read Free Book Online
Authors: André Aciman
Tags: Fiction, Literary, General, Gay
The lights would go out, the music would die, and all we had was each other’s faces. An aunt twittering away about her dreadful years in St. Louis, Missouri, which she pronounced San Lui , Mother trailing the scent of Earl Grey tea, and in the background, all the way from the kitchen downstairs, the voices of Manfredi and Mafalda—spare whispers of a couple bickering in loud hisses. In the rain, the lean, cloaked, hooded figure of the gardener doing battle with the elements, always pulling up weeds even in the rain, my father signaling with his arms from the living room window, Go back, Anchise, go back.
    “That man gives me the creeps,” my aunt would say.
    “That creep has a heart of gold,” my father would say.
    But all of these hours were strained by fear, as if fear were a brooding specter, or a strange, lost bird trapped in our little town, whose sooty wing flecked every living thing with a shadow that would never wash. I didn’t know what I was afraid of, nor why I worried so much, nor why this thing that could so easily cause panic felt like hope sometimes and, like hope in the darkest moments, brought such joy, unreal joy, joy with a noose tied around it. The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t. The agony wore me out in the end, and, on scalding afternoons, I’d simply give out and fall asleep on the living room sofa and, though still dreaming, know exactly who was in the room, who had tiptoed in and out, who was standing there, who was looking at me and for how long, who was trying to pick out today’s paper while making the least rustling sound, only to give up and look for tonight’s film listings whether they woke me or not.
    The fear never went away. I woke up to it, watched it turn to joy when I heard him shower in the morning and knew he’d be downstairs with us for breakfast, only to watch it curdle when, rather than have coffee, he would dash through the house and right away set to work in the garden. By noon, the agony of waiting to hear him say anything to me was more than I could bear. I knew that the sofa awaited me in an hour or so. It made me hate myself for feeling so hapless, so thoroughly invisible, so smitten, so callow. Just say something, just touch me, Oliver. Look at me long enough and watch the tears well in my eyes. Knock at my door at night and see if I haven’t already left it ajar for you. Walk inside. There’s always room in my bed.
    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

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