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I remember everything ― a Call Me By Your Name short story

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I waited and I wanted it more than anything. I was pleading silently for it to happen now or anytime soon. While we stood there in my father's ghost spot, he said he was like me, he said he remembered everything. We held our gaze and our breaths in that moment when he spoke out these words, a thousand thoughts swimming in those blue eyes while they looked at me so deeply and thoughtfully and kindly, as mine did at him, both of us waiting for something more to happen, anything more. And suddenly, harshly, as if the universe or God or faith had had a second thought on what should happen, that moment was ripped away with not a word spoken as farewell. We stared at each other, for minutes or hours, until he looked away and continued his way into the house. I paralyzed for a second, perhaps still hoping he would turn around and say it, say anything, hold me, kiss me; but as nothing happened, I went back inside too.

I still recall his last stay in B., as I tend to do with each and every one of our encounters during our lives. We visited the city, the piazzetta, the old library which is now a caffée, San Giacomo; all of it without speaking too much, just visiting the places and embracing the places. The breeze. The view. Each other's presence and side looks. I don't think anything else needed to be said, even though both of us had fiery urges to just spill everything out to each other - we, in some sort of way, had already spoken everything, and we might have been scared that any other impulsive truth could dissolve these moments away, as if they were just memories made of sand and sea foam. We knew everything already. And we knew we knew.

Going to all those places with him, walking or riding those old bikes, made me feel a peacefulness I could only enjoy when I had his body and eyes and smile and voice around me. While he was staring at the horizon in the piazza or closing his eyes as he felt the the sunny afternoon at the belfry, I would just look at him and realize how hellish my life is without his presence, the same feeling I felt when we talked and drinked at that hotel, that injustice and desire, but stronger; I carried on, and I thought and told myself vehemently, for twenty years, that I was fine; but when I saw him coming through the little gate once more and standing in his little heaven with his espadrilles and just being there being him, I realized I had just accustomed to the void left where his soul used to reside inside my being. I never even tried to fill that gap, I just got used to the feeling of something missing, dimmed by time. But the same way time fades pain away, it has a cruel manner of making it all resurface with immeasurable might. It hit me all at once, the lack he made, and yet the calmness he brought to my heart wouldn't move from its place, standing its ground tall and strong and resilient inside my heart and veins.

We went to all those places and felt all those memories resurfacing, and when the night came, we were back at the house. Mafalda made dinner and fed my mom in her room, while Manfredi dined with us in a comfortable silence. I was wondering when it would be the time to go upstairs to the rooms and what to do - where to go - when the time arrived. I was expecting a rush of overwhelmness. For both of us. We would stop at the french windows, in that familiar place that would alight even more the old remembrances, and look inside, look at the sky, look at each other. And the question would play in our minds and go all the way to the tip of our tongues, "You come to mine or I go to yours?" The thought of having him next door exactly the way I had two decades ago made me realize that, same as before, I didn't know what to do even though I had a lot of ideas bursting in my head. Restlessness. He may have felt it too, for each attempt of small talk that came from us or, mostly, Manfredi, perished in a matter of seconds. We ate. Mafalda arrived at time for a late night coffee, and then her questions and laughter filled the room a little bit. Always stern, but still energetic. She asked Oliver about work, the States, his wife, his kids. When these last subjects arrived, I sensed he'd flinched for a fraction of a second before answering Mafalda normally and happily. He may even have cast a timid glance in my direction, but I was staring at the night outside and just listening. He spoke of them with joy. About his kids, specially. He spoke with a little hint of a smile in the side of his lips, a mild nostalgic tone in his voice, and I smiled at that. It was beautiful, what he felt for them. He was beautiful, as beautiful as the day he arrived, so much and no time ago. The same eyes that could cast you loving or steely gazes in a flicker of a second; same glowing, moving eyes. The same smile. His hair was a little bit longer than last time, resembling the one from back in those days, but with charmful scattered white strands. As proven in so many ways before, time meant nothing for us. It was just as if yesterday he ate my peach and merged his being with mine by doing so and just this morning we had talked about translated poems in heaven. And earlier in the afternoon, we were at the hotel bar. Memories just fresh, livid. I forget nothing. And I hope, if just to make him suffer with the memories or to make him love me again or love me still, neither does he. 

When Mafalda and Manfredi left to sleep, we were alone. Now the only lamp illuminating the table came from the distant corridor. I could picture his shadow line and his pupils, piercing at me through the dark, but not his expression. His gaze was burning holes in me and I enjoyed it. I could stay there, being stared at, forever. I would starve to death and drown in thirst and would die happily. The glint of his eyes glowed so much it made all the other lights in the world fade away. What are you thinking?, I thought, wanting to ask. On how wrong it is? On how good it is? On my naked body lying next to your naked body? On how you should have never come? Tell me. Tell me anything. I want to know. I'll listen to anything you want to say.

I don't know for how long we sat there and stared at each other so fiercely. Time and space slips when I'm with him, like I'm suddenly an alien from another dimension where the mere notion of those things that held us back in here are just subjects we can manipulate, and not something that ruins us. I imagined a new universe for us, where there was only me and him and that was all that mattered, there was no time, no space, no one; only me and him existing together, forever, as one and each other. I shook my head and came back to Earth, we came to a consensus it was time to go upstair and stood up simultaneously. Without a word being spoken, we headed to the stairs, me first, him following. I could feel him fiercely analyzing my back. My whole body lighted ablaze when he'd do that. My blood rushed in unimaginable speed, while, paradoxically, I once again felt that peace and calm he would bring to me.

We headed to the balcony without flinching. We didn't even hesitated on ignoring the corridor door that would take him to his room directly and rip out the beautiful and dreading surprise the french windows would provide. The night outside remained beautiful. The full moon was at the highest point of the sky, as if observing us from a privileged view. There were a lot of scattered shiny stars to accompany it. Not such a lonely night. The breeze that reached us filled my lungs with renewed air, air with salt of the waves and so light it could lift you. This was the thing I missed the most about Italy: this characteristic breeze, one that could bring you back to life. Could it bring us back to life, rise our love and passion from the fire that remained in our hearts and minds, burning on its own? We stood still, feeling the air. He took a few slow steps further and leaned on the balustrade, lifted his head to the sky and closed his eyes. He sighed deeply, as if his breath had been lumped in his throat for a long time and only now, with this purifying breeze, had a chance to come out. I observed the outlines of his bones and the natural glow of his skin under the light of the moon until he turned around and went for the windows that led to the room I'd slept twenty summers ago, and where I sleep now as well. I joined him. Side by side, we stood and watched our dim reflections on the glass. Older, but the same. Our cores hadn't changed. Our eyes still burned and searched each other's gaze with the same voracity as before. Our characteristics would only melt with each other as if they were irrevocably drawn together. My skinny body and his strong one. My dark hair, his charming one. My heart, his heart. My name, his name.

Eventually we turned to each other. I drank every feature of his being. The way his collarbone pointed out when he breathed deeply. The way his eyes turned the color of an unspeakable blue when under the glorious italian night. His rhythmic breathing, combining with my own, following a compass only he and I were allowed to comprehend. His hands, his arms, his legs, every limb of his body staying still against the wind as his nerves would send impulses that danced between calmness and epiphany, waiting for the next moment. And what would it be? When? I could be like that forever, I wanted every moment we had to last on and on. And I didn't know if I wanted to find out what was going to happen. Everything I built along all those years without him, every barrier, coping mechanism, every way of forgetting or getting over him, it all crumbled down every time I saw him, and this time was no different. I missed him, I loved him, I needed him. Every cell of my body shouted this at him, even though I already, and always, knew he felt everything back. The stars he and I had, they never left. What happened is that it's been an endless day for twenty years, but now it was night again and they shined, once more, above us.

It looked as though the sky urged us to do something, those stars whispered tentatively for us to consummate our wills at last, to merge everything we were, are and ever will be in this exact instant. I could feel the air changing, as though trying to mutter words of encouragement or derision. Or perhaps they just waited? Watching, as the moon, our next move? "What will they do?", the dots would ask to one another while glinting their little eyes at us. "Do something!" We stopped staring at the window glass and turned our hungry eyes to each other. Would we hear them? Would we do something after all? Would he finally say his name to me and take me to my room or his room or anywhere as long as he was with me or would he leave me here alone, rip my heart and leave tomorrow with it while I bleed to death in this very balcony?

After some time that felt like a delicious forever, he took one cautious but steady step forward. He was looking down at our feet. I could feel his slow breathing in my face now, his nose just a little above and a few inches from mine. I could now make out some little, until now unnoticed wrinkles he had next to his mouth and around his eyes. They looked practically invisible, specially right now as he was intensely serious. I was so close to him I could once again lose myself in the infinite of shades and emotions that were contained in his eyes, and to drown in those deep blue waters again never felt so wickedly holy. I could even observe those tiny lines that made his beautiful lips, and oh, I wished nothing more in the world than to give one little step further. To finally eliminate, destroy, rip away the space between his lips and mine because that vacant spot seemed treacherously wrong in the universe. It still amazed me, and always will, how perfect he was. He was that kind of person that was poetically and unequalled beautiful both on the inside and the outside; it was as if his wonderful soul needed a shell just as magical and hypnotic, and had told the gods to built that heavenly body, the one that made you feel in paradise if you came closer and that quietly asked as it stared at you with those piercing eyes "You should come here and turn me out completely." I fell on his enchantment and I wouldn't ever regret it. I did find him out, turned him inside out and back again. I did; I knew every corner of his beautiful brain and every impulse his neurons shot throughout his body, I knew every joint of his limbs, I've beheld his sweat covered shoulders shining in the sun and I've kissed every little pore of his skin. But it was never enough. It wasn't enough now. Only to kiss him in this very moment and forever until I die and then find him in heaven or hell and be with him for eternity would do. Not even that, perhaps.

But I wanted to see if it would do. Most desperately. My heart started pounding very fast and my eyes fastened across his face, his eyes, his hair, his arms, his hands, as if it could not know where to fix its gaze and I could feel my nerves trying to make my body move and hold him. Scared and nervous like a teenager, the exactly way he made me feel the first time. It shouldn't surprise me by now, how that spark of ours is still so unstoppably strong, but it does every time. He was me. Fully and completely. How would anything have died if we never really left each other?

And there we stood. I don't know if he was waiting for me to do something, now that he's taken the first move, but I couldn't do anything. I was paralyzed, trapped in a spell cast by his eyes. I couldn't even play pretend, act like I didn't care what was to happen or look away as if this all seemed uninteresting and mundane. We were way past that now. My eyes looked deep into his and pledged, Please, do something. Because if you don't than I won't too and we'd be locked in this moment forever. Not that I'm complaining. He was the one who needed to do something, he was the one who should kiss me or walk away because he was the one who had a wife, and kids, and a family he's chosen. If it was for me, we'd be fucking and kissing for hours in a row now. I wouldn't even have waited for him to get out of his cab, I would have held him there and kiss him like there was no tomorrow for us to see. He knew that. Don't make me do this. I won't be able to stop if I start. I closed my eyes in begging and bit my lips. Do something, do something, do something. And when I looked at him again and he saw my pleading, passionate, desperate eyes, he did.

He took one step ahead and embraced me. He lifted his strong arms slowly and carefully and placed them around my shoulders, then took one little move forward and gently pulled me closer. And suddenly all there was was him, his arms, the complete lack of space between our bodies and his breath in my ear, the most blissful sensation I could ever feel. The tip of his hair was brushing my temple and his hands held onto my shoulders like they've always belonged there. I hugged him back, with the same serenity and necessity as him. I felt his strong back under my hands and put my nose on his shoulders, feeling his cotton shirt and the skin beneath it, emanating a heat that would trespass any layer of clothing. I felt so safe. There was nothing in the world that could ever hurt me, only him, but he was holding me like he loved me. My whole body was relieved. I closed my eyes and let out a lumped sigh that was suffocating me for so many years. I smelled his scent and felt his heart thumping in my chest and the world faded away like it meant nothing.

We allowed a transcendental feeling involve us and send us somewhere only we knew. We were back in the berm, in my bed, in his bed, we were in a field of peach-trees, in the rocks of an infinite beach. We were everywhere that once belonged to us and where our love left a mark that would last forever in the history of mankind. A hundred thousand emotions passed through me, and I felt every kind of love, every connection that has ever happened on this Earth since the beginning of time running blissfully through my core. I held him tighter and so did he like our lives depended on it, and God, it did. We were trying to merge our cells so tightly they would just converge into one another and we'd be one, literally speaking, at last.

I somehow could feel his eyes closing tightly with desire, passion, need and savage relief and we held one another, our embrace becoming more desperate and strong and fiery because we needed to let it all out. We needed to turn into actions what our brains were so tirelessly thinking for years, and they were bursting such naughty, beautiful, poetic, chaotic thoughts through our heads, a thunderstorm of feelings that would fill our minds and overflow to our bodies. I put all my strength and affection into the muscles holding him and I could feel his heart beating so fast it could be my own. And it was.

We eventually started to hold on more loosely and tenderly, calmness sinking in our touch again. We were not ready to let go yet, though. I honestly felt like I’d disappear if I stepped out of his arms. My being, my entire set of cells only made sense when involved by his. How did I live without his touch? That miserable life seemed light years away, even though we now felt like we were back on this world, on this balcony. I didn't ever want to leave. So I stayed, there in his arms, slowly touching his hair, immersed in the air, feeling the glow of the moon above us and inhaling his smell, for what felt like forever. His head was slightly covering mine, tall as he was, and he would lay it carefully on my face, so softly, as if he was afraid to hurt me if he moved too much. He would breath peacefully on my cheek. I felt an innocent, pure feeling emanating from the atmosphere around us and I let our respiration enter in the same compass, calmy in and out and in.

This moment felt so absolute and right. It traveled through every part of the kaleidoscope of feelings every man and woman had ever experienced: love, rage, purity, tenderness, loss, devotion, desire, passion. Never had I felt such an intense verge of emotions, and I knew what happened here and now happened exactly when it needed to. I wouldn't be able to seize this in its total amplitude if it had happened sooner, like I asked, or later, like I dreaded. We had to pass through everything we passed, through every day and event that molded us and shaped our lives until we get to this very night and be blessed with this very moment. We were completely fulfilled. The moment of a lifetime, to last for a lifetime; we had a lot of those. We were, indeed, overwhelmed, our bodies and hearts filled with the magic evolving around us. We knew, though, it was coming to an end; a necessary, but deeply saddening end. The universe has greeted us with heaven for a little while more but now Earth has called back and we needed to leave. So I made myself aware of every part of me that was in contact with him and sensed what each one of my cells, separately, was feeling when in touch with him; that glorious feeling, the one that proved me I was with him in such an intensely and rightful way, and we slowly loosen our touch.

I was ready. But when I opened my eyes, it saddened me. When he let go, it broke me. And when he looked at me in the eyes and so suddenly a sad gaze would overturn his entire expression and he would slowly tail to his room at the far end of the balcony, it tore me apart in a way I knew I'd never be able to recover. I stood there, still for a while, not even hoping he'd come back, just there, existing in that spot where something so sacred and miraculous had just happened - another ghost spot, now. Even the wooden floor where I stood alone looked brighter, like it was marked forever. Perhaps it truly was.

I left the breezing night and slowly opened my windows, not closing them once I was inside. I don't know if I did that because I was secretly expecting he would sneak inside and observe me, lay with me in the middle of the night or to just enjoy the cool air, and I honestly didn't care at all. My body was here, back in this terrane damnation, but my heart and senses had not yet left that divine place we were sent to. I lay in my bed with the clothes I was on and didn't shut my eyes for a second during the whole night. My mind wandered through the most wonderful illusions while the hours passed leisurely, and I didn't try to stop the fantasies to surface. I could see an entire life with him passing through my eyes; a quiet home here in Italy, bike rides and beach walks, bookstores, morning jogs, poems, songs at the piano at night, wine, coffee, midnight sex, afternoon lovemaking, morning sex, quick sex, wicked sex, passionate lovemaking, love, affection, tenderness, stolen kisses, lovemaking, honesty, purity, laughter, him. Forever. Until we’re old and bony and seated in wicker chairs on a balcony watching the sun go down, content with our life. Old people with the feeling they did life right - did they even exist? To die with no regret, - not on this matter, at least - what a dream. I welcomed this sights from a distant universe I would never seize because they were the closest thing to a real life I had with him. Nothing else would happen and I was not yet ready to accept that. This was the last visit he would ever do, I felt it so certainly in my bones as I felt my love for him still burning inside everyday. There was nothing left to be done or said, and I think he thinks that if he comes back again, he won't be able to hold down. We both know we won't. And we won't give ourselves the temptation; we quietly agreed to that as we let our embrace go. It was too painful, but I could relive the pain of losing him everyday if that meant I get to see him everyday, even if in my fantasies. I would live in pain but I would live with him close to me, and that was the greatest gift I could ask from the heavens. And nevertheless, we were blessed during the time we had. And in all the little borrowed times we had after. We would still feel that blessing surrounding us for years, still letting that summer reverberate in our tendons and nerves because we remember. We always would. And when the sky decides to shine on two people so kindfully, Earth does not forget. It gets imprinted in the soil, the trees, the sun. In our skin and our organs. Until we died and after that, a mark to last forever. Just like the forever we had so ephemerally, yet that we so blissfully embraced. So, as a way of farewell, I lived in that illusion gracefully while the sky outside changed his deep dark blue into a darker one, then gray, then pastel pink, until the first ray of light glistened through the curtains and the soft wind. I wanted to lay there forever. If I didn't leave my imagination and acknowledge the morning then it wouldn't come, right?, and he would have to be forever locked in the other room, next to me, with only the french windows and my bedroom and me as foreign places to explore. Would he come? No, Elio. He would come no more. I waited to hear some noise on the other room before getting up. If I was to leave my state of stupor, it'd be because he decided so, it'd be his fault, not mine. A thump came to greet my ears; he was probably arranging his bag to leave. My heart achily flinched at that. I laid down still, like a prey pretending to be dead until its predator left, even though knew it wouldn't and death was coming in no matter's time. I managed to fool myself a few seconds more, until a knock came - on the door, not the french windows.

“Elio?”, my name in his lips always sound so heavenly. My whole body burned with the sound of his voice. He stopped for a second, and I could almost hear his mind cogs working to find something to say that doesn't include fuck me, kiss me or be with me until the end of times. "Coming for breakfast?"

I savored on the melody of his tones for a second, closing my eyes in delight. "Yes. In a minute.", I answered, hoarse voice, while stretching. I knew he came to call me because after breakfast he'd be leaving, and he wanted me to be there when he did. Should I be flattered or angry? I didn't want to see him leave. Ever. But if he was to go, I'd be with him until the last second and I'd be there to say goodbye. So I got up, washed my face and changed. I looked at my tired aspect in the small stained bathroom mirror, noticing my eye bags and pallidness, but also a gleam in my being I knew would fade the minute he got in the cab and leave forever.

Breakfast was quiet. Mafalda and Manfredi weren't there, as if they felt it was a solemn moment made just for the two of us and decided to not interrupt. So when I went downstairs and found the table set and him. Sitting there in the chair closest to the window, already dressed to leave, being bathed by the sunbeams while reading the newspaper. When the light reached his hair and face, the white streaks and wrinkles would be blinded and he'd be 24 again. I saw him there and suddenly I felt 17, standing with only my bathing suit while I heard my mom drinking lemonade and talking to the visits outside, and my dad laughing in the tennis court below, Mafalda cooking, Manfredi taking care of his immaculate peaches, Anchise fixing things around. A beautiful morning in the Italian summer, with my life stretching lazily ahead of me and nothing to think but on which song I'd transcribe that afternoon and how me and that handsome man in front of me were going to fuck all night long. The light flickered away from him and I was back to this place. I got out of my trance and stepped forward, sitting in the chair in front of his. He lowered his eyes from the page he was perusing and stared at me intently, but his gaze was kind and light. "Morning", he said, and got back to his lazy reading.

I poured my coffee while looking at him distractedly. "Morning." I smiled faintly and sipped my drink. I felt afloat, light, peaceful. Small talk made everything seem like it was just another good day starting. A calm atmosphere was dangling weightlessly around us and there wasn't a single worry that could pass through my head in this instant. This was normality; breakfast with him, just the two of us; and even though I knew it wouldn't last, right now it felt like we had a wonderful and long road ahead, and there was no rush. I looked at the sun and the grass outside and let things just be this way for as long as they could be. We ate. We drank coffee. He finished reading his article and just enjoyed the moment as well, sighing several times, observing the room and exchanging casual and quick looks with me once in a while. Here it was, that little bit of heaven, conceived last minutely, that we emphatically greeted. We postponed this meal as far as we could, drinking one more cup of our drinks and eating another piece of pastry. But then the coffee bottle ended and we ate more than enough and the clock cruely pointed out to Oliver it was time to go. His cab would be here anytime, he arranged the whole thing yesterday. So we, even though mildly reluctant, dismissed the moment and stood up at the same time. We waited at the bottom of the stairs while Manfredi insisted on getting Oliver's bag in the bedroom. I was one step above him, leaning against the wall while he twiddled timidly in the handrail. A small tension, an apprehensiveness was starting to build up in the air surrounding us. We were realizing that our fairytale was reaching its final pages, the last minutely written epilogue. Carrying his bag outside while he said goodbye to everyone and waiting with him by the gate confirmed that ferociously. The sun was burning over our heads but I felt cold. He was walking along the garden one last time, observing things, staring at the horizon with a solemn posture, like he bowed down to this place, this ambience that housed him for so long. And now he was to leave. For good.

For good? I laughed in the inside. Good for whom? He would leave, go on his way to Menton, then the States, to his wife, kids and stable job and I'd be here for the summer, torn apart, then back to the States, torn apart still, in a stable job but with no wife and no kids, just eventual empty kisses and cuddles because there is only him. There will always be only him and that summer, always. Did he feel the same? Did he feel that life was to be incomplete until the end now? It's fun how I was dangle on uncertainty in this matter. If he did, if we felt the same way, why didn't we leave together? Abandon every aspect of the life we know and just sail away to a completely different place where we only had each other? Had life weighed on us enough, so much that don't have the strength to stand up no more? Dad said our lives are given to us one time only. Is this it? Is this the life I'm bound to get? That one everyone craves for, is this the one? To see the man of my dreams and the man of my life walk away and be done with it? All these unfair doubts blowed up in my head all at once and I felt mad. I fixed my eyes in the glowing green grass and never I have been so angry in my life.

Oliver was now staring at me, smiling captiously, as though trying to guess where my mind was. He verbalized it when I looked up at him, "What were you thinking?" I breathed deeply, calming myself, and looked away, trying to look mysterious. "Nothing. Everything.", taunting him to ask me more and to just get inside my head and read it all out of me for I wouldn't say it out loud. He laughed soundlessly, "You know so much." He seemed surprised, he always said this sort of thing and then seemed surprised. "I know so little about things that matter.", I said in a joking tone, devilish smile, reliving that day in the summer when I told him the truth. I think I had all we said during those weeks carved in the inside of my eyelids. He remembered. I remembered. We stared at each other and started smiling, then laughing, never taking our eyes off of each other. We then stopped and just stared. There was so much. There was so much between us. What we had, this doesn't happen to most people. We were lucky, we really were. I suppose we should be grateful, after all. And carry on, if that's what we had to do.

And it was. The cab arrived a few moments later. The driver stopped a little lower on the street and just waited, disinterested in us, observing the landscape. We stood close to the gate and we didn't move. This was it. Time has come for us once again, as brutally and precociously as any of the other times. I could feel my heart hollowing itself, a whole beginning to widen up again, expanding even more now. I could feel myself tear up, but I made it stop. Tears would obfuscate my vision of him, and I was trying to memorize every single one of his features right now. This image of him, I wanted to take her with me everywhere I go, until the end of my days. My eyes wandered through his hair, his eyes, his mouth, his shoulders, elbows, belly, hands, tights, knees, feet; and I opened a slow smile when I looked back at his face. The most honest smile that I ever gave to him or to anyone. A smile that said everything. That said thank you in the most genuine way. Because I was grateful. I was so grateful for his existence and for him allowing me to get into his life and heart. He was the best thing that ever happened to me, and ever will be. He understood that, I knew he did, and he smiled back. I felt sad, but unbearably glad as well. Because he was thanking me too. And no one has ever thanked me for my existence ever before.

We knew we couldn't make the poor man who didn't have a clue why Oliver was taking so long to get in the cab wait any longer, but we stood there for a moment longer. Then, in a concurrent urge, we both stepped forward and hugged each other so very tightly. I felt my warm breath hit his shoulder and come back to me. I felt comforted. His large hands went calmly up and down my back, until they stopped and held me tight. I did too and after a few seconds, we slowly pulled apart. He didn't let go of my back, and I didn't of his, my hand firmly pressed in the middle of his spine, so we just parted enough to stare at each other quite closely. He looked at my lips and bit his and I knew that if I didn't back away now, there'd be no turning back and I would simply be obliged to kiss him. But I ignored my warnings, stood my ground and watched him. He was not moving, only watching my lips, because he knew if he moved one muscle he wouldn't resist either. I did not want to resist. So I didn't. I didn't want to be unfaithful or disrespectful to everything we've been through and to everyone who was involved in our lives now either, so when I moved to kiss him, I made myself direct towards his cheek. It was the hardest command my brain ever had to obey. But I slowly pressed my lips into his skin, close enough to his mouth but not enough so he could move and kiss me back. It was what we most wanted in the world, no one had ever wanted something so bad, but we couldn't. We accepted that in the most honored, honest and hurtful way now. So I just felt his skin on my lips and I felt it twitch a little like he was smiling lightly and I felt him close his eyes and press me just a little harder. My nose was in his neck and I swear it belonged there, like that specific piece of him was its home. I savoured on his touch for a few more seconds, then slowly and painfully drifted away. The summer wind hit my lips and it felt cold and harsh, and I wanted nothing to place it back where it was. But I once again gathered self control from God knows where to do nothing more, and when I came back to staring at him, he slowly repeated my move. But his kiss was closer to my lips and I smiled wickedly because oh, he was taunting me. This awesome awful man. He smiled through the kiss and I smiled back and the tip of our lips touched slightly at that, for a second, before we restrained our muscles a little. I placed my hand on his face and caressed it once and when he drifted apart too, it stayed there for a little while. His both hands cupped my face and we felt as though holding the most precious artifacts of the Earth. He looked deeply into my eyes, like he never, ever did before, not even back in those days, and so did I, not ever had we looked at each other so profoundly. It startled me but I didn't look away, I looked harder. Steadier. The same way he did because all those solemn, magical moments he provided me, I was returning with this gesture now. And then, cupped faces, eyes to eyes, we smiled. Caringly. Warmingly. So, so purely. I kindfully place my hand on his neck and brought our foreheads together and we closed our eyes for a brief moment, and then drifted apart.

He seemed motionless for a second. Like he was lost and he didn't know what to do next. But then he looked at his bag and remembered where we were and what he had to do. The expression that filled his face made it seem like it pained him to remember that. He bent down and grabbed the handle and stood erect, suddenly very formal and serious. Concentrating on trying to take away the emotion of the moment. It's adorable and stupid to see him pretending he can do such thing. I gave a few seconds for him to drop the act and realize there was no way this wasn't going to hurt for the two of us. He gave up when he looked at me again and he let his face manifest all the emotions he was feeling. They were so many and so entwined his lines looked burdened. Like looking at me for the last time hurt.

I did not let this overwhelming sorrow hit me right now. I had a lifetime to be sad. I wouldn't be now, on our very last moment together. I glanced at him a reassuring look and a reassuring smile, affirming it was okay. Everything was okay. He understood and let himself be comforted by me, a timid smile lightening his expression almost as an involuntary impulse. I opened the little gate that would lead us to the street and felt that once we stopped out of the clay path and cool grass of my house into the cold hard asphalt of the street, we would be departing completely of our tiny hidden meadow of dreams and hopes and unity. Rocking both feet back into reality. I waited for him to pair up with me and stood looking at out feet and the harsh fission of worlds we were about to face now. Together. I placed my hand on top of his, cupping while he kept holding the bag. And we went on.

Even the wind changed once we felt the hard ground beneath our feet. It seemed violent for a moment, like the universe was furious such a love had to break apart once again. But since the universe is huge and we're just a little insignificant speck in time, everything went back to an scornful indifference just a second later. I let go of his hand and we stopped a little bit away from the cab. The driver got out of the car and quickly took the bag of Oliver's hand, like he was trying to politely evidence he was in a hurry. He place it in the trunk, glanced at us and respectfully went back to the cab, knowing this - whatever it was - would take just a little moment longer.

Oliver turned at me. "So...", he started, but he realized the cheesiness and discomfort this half-built phrase brought to the moment. He started over. "This is it." Being direct wasn't any better, but how could it be?

"This is it." I echoed back. We made it fast - prolong this would only do us harm, and we didn't want to hurt each other, not ever. He gave the most honest look at me and started to turn away, but then looked back, as though he had forgotten something. "Later.", he mocked, and the word held the same daring and mystery and wickedness it always had before. But this time, he seemed sad. I smiled back but my eyes started to flood with tears. "Later", I managed to choke out while smiling back.

He turned away while I dried my eyes rapidly and the last picture of him, the one I'd carry with me forever and print in the back of my eyelids, were how his blue eyes matching the color of his dress shirt, the way his gray trousers made him look strangely formal, yet in a casual way, and the dress shirt he was wearing made the perfect tone of his skin glow in the sun; the way his hair was slicked glamorously back and shined with such charmness in the sun, how the wrinkles that tenderly caressed his expression while he embedded himself on my image as well; me, with my modest manners, simple clothes, messed up hair, eyes partly closed against the light of the sun trying to catch one more glimpse of him, willing to give anything to freeze time for another moment still. He slowly directed himself towards the back door and the thud it made when it closed resembled the one my heart made when it just break inside my chest. It painfully hurted me to hear that torturous sound and so I shakily breathed out, closed my eyes and felt the tears fell down. They felt uncomfortably warm, as though trying to burn my skin. When I opened them again, the cab was slowly pulling away. His gaze fixed at mine through the window, contemplating as long as it could, almost putting his head out the window to behold that angelic vision one last time. I remembered my mantra, the one I took from his mouth and made my motivation and life philosophy until my adulthood. The words echoed in my mind, whispered with the tone of his voice, while the last bit of the cab disappeared on the road. If not later, when? I closed my eyes again and felt myself laugh grossly, letting out an angry, stern breath. There'd be no later. It was too late for later, after all the postponing we could do, all the time I thought I had to hold over but I didn't, were finally gone, driving away along with him and my soul.

I knew it would be the last time I'd see him. I felt in my bones and in my nerves that our time, the borrowed time, the stolen time, the hidden time we kept finding for ourselves, searching for scraps, begging for a bit more, a bit more, just a little longer, was finally and completely done. I didn't dare to make myself think otherwise in any other way - just a spark of hope could light up my heart again and I'd spend the rest of my life looking sideways, searching for him through the corners and in every strange face that bumped me in the streets. No. That merciful God that conceived us our blessing had its fair share of patience and kindness and did not grant us no Later, no longer.

I stood there, a miserable incomplete tiny speck only existing in space. This was it. There goes my dream, my life, myself.

Chapter Text

I still dream about that day.

I dreamt about it just last night. I swiftly entered into a cloudy remembrance, but waking up and getting ripped off from it was a grueling torment. I opened my eyes and for a split second I was still inside the dream. I could still feel our hug, but realized it was just the sheets entangling around my arms. I could feel our foreheads brought together, though it was just my face in the pillow. I could feel his hand caressing mine, but it were my muscles tightly holding the quilt. The way the sun combined with my tears and didn't let me see anything once the car disappear was just the way the morning drowsiness blurred my sight. I sat on my bed and felt my being crumble back down to the nasty, paltry reality I was in. Then, in an impulse, an animalistic instinct, an involuntary movement my muscles felt an urgency to take, I opened the closet door right ahead of me, took Billowy carefully out of its sacred convoy and held it. There was still a faint smell of him. Or maybe it was just my mind trying to bring him closer, wherever he was. As I breathed in and out on the fabric, a strange feeling flooded me out of the blue; a presentiment, like my mind suddenly was aware of something beyond and was waiting, alerting my whole body to be ready. But I just let waved that away and sat there, getting stripped of the wonders of my sleep until it was breakfast time.

When he left a year ago I did the same thing with his shirt. The last bit of the cab fell away, I couldn't see anything, my surroundings were too vague, my eyes were too wet, I was drowning and I stood there until a desperate cry hit me suddenly. I sobbed and sobbed and I was alone. No hand on my shoulder and no shoulder to cry on, for Mafalda was probably in the kitchen humming a Neapolitan song, outlandish; my dad was just a ghost spot and his calm voice wasn't here to reach my ears and Oliver was distancing from me at each teardrop that fell.

When the crying stop, my shoulders were burning from the sun and the house freshness greeted my skin pleasantly. I went upstairs, but decided to stop at my mom's room - I stood at the door observing her and for a faint second I could swear she recognized me, as she looked at me inquiringly, silently asking "Why are you crying?" , and then smiling kindly as though she already knew the answer. And then she lost herself looking out the window again. I felt the tears coming up once more. I closed the door silently, swiftly startled by the look she gave me, the one that said "I know. I always knew. And I understand. Be brave, mi amore.", all without saying a word. And I felt comforted, after all. I remember her look and what it conveyed everyday, when it gets too hard. Still a brave woman, still fighting to be here even though it's so easy to be lost. I should fight with the same voracity now.

I lost myself through the corridors of the house for a second as though I stood in a unknown place, before shaking my head from the clouds, heading to my bedroom and, just like today, open the closet and search quite desperately for Billowy, like a drowning man craving for air. Getting hold of its bag was like a refreshing gulp of it. Life saving. I cautiously took it out and placed it on my cheek, laid down with it, cried on top of it and then wiped my eyes with its soft material. During the rest of the day I laid there, me and that part of him tightly held in my hands, safe and sacred and heart-warming, until night came and sun rose, until my eyes dried out and my head was a silent void, just inhaling and exhaling on the shirt as though it was his neck that was wrapping me smoothly.

I've been living my life a bit mechanically since he's gone. B ut some days, eventually, while doing my job or when falling into sleep, I feel an enormous devastating sensation trying to drown me. I got used to it. The relapses. The truth behind the walls I've chose to build around some pieces of my life. In the love matter, mainly. I try to make my faint life choices around the feeble, terrene motto "Life goes on", the one people say to you when you feel your heart dying but need to keep living. "It has to." A part of me will always neglect that, always turn away to accepting this fact and refuse to live completely without him here. But even so, I still find great pleasure in my work, I still go out some nights and I still transcribe music whenever I can. I still visit my summer house every year, in this one being no different, and I lose myself in thoughts around the streets once more, wandering through the memories I know so much.

I remember every little thing from that last time. The sun, the sky, the breeze. The shirt he was wearing and the sleekness of his hair. The taste of the coffee in the next morning. The goodbye. But in this day, when I woke up and realized I was completely alone in my bed, I felt them cruelly sharpened: as my mind left the cloudiness behind, I felt the memories strangely more enlighten, burning bright in the back of my mind, like a secret, a foggy mystery, a foreboding for something that was coming, a truth that was peeking me closely and pondering if it was time to finally come out and meet me. What was it, I had no ideia. But it made me wonder and expect something. That twinged my heart and I felt deeply uncomfortable while staring at the empty side of the bed. I'd feel the same uneasiness if there was someone there who was not him, which sounds worse. But either way, it was a feeling that, for the first time in quite a long time, I wasn't able to run from. So I just sat, and fell, and fell and fell until they went faded away again. I made myself forget whatever my gut was telling me to do, to search for; for it wouldn't change anything, for I didn't want to know what was waiting for me - it would open old memories I've tried so hard to quiet down in my head. I want to have a good time in here, for before being the house of the rising of my only love, it was my home. And it will always be so. I get out of bed. All this did left a weird impression, though, an unfinished thought in my mind. I was starting to be annoyed by it, but I decided that I shouldn't dwell on it all day long. It was just the universe mocking me. Making me wait for something - whatever it was that I felt I was waiting on - that wouldn't come. That's why I stood up, took a shower and went downstairs to live my day.

It’s hard coming back here without him. I already knew it would be, but setting foot home, wandering through the piazza, passing by all those places that reminded me of him - pretty much every place around B. - pinched my heart quite painfully. I endured breakfast and lunch, but I just couldn't be home for the afternoon, so I decided to ride around the city. It took me a great strong urge to decide to go. There was nothing left to do around there by the afternoon and I did want to walk around the streets I know and love so much - but at the same time, I was dreaded to go back and remember . To drown in the memories once more. To have another fall down and not come back from it because so far, I have managed to live without him. But at anytime… this might break. And coming back… that is always a leap of faith, a dangerous move I take from which I may or may not return to. But I got one of the old bikes and pedaled away. On the road, I passed by the path that leads to the berm and almost hit the brakes, turning the handlebar, but decided to carry on - that was our place, not mine. Ours. If I were to be back there, it would be with him. Then I'd never be back , the thought wickedly poked my mind and that saddened me, for it was a beautiful place. The berm: Monet's place and ours. And never to be visited by either of us ever again. I rode faster. Maybe I'm running from it, from him, but how can I live with his ghost? I only knew how to run, now. For he was everywhere. Permeated in the streets, sprawling through every corner, every tree, every wind. He became the city, the moments I passed with him here so strong and enormous it overtook and covered everything.

I tried to sooth my mind during the rest of the trip. To just ride and be part of the air and the surroundings. To just be here in the best way I can. And to observe and be strong about not letting my mind sorrow my sight. I stopped at the piazza. It felt right. I wanted to sit in a comfortable corner, free from the sun's heat, looking at some lost music sheets, apart from everyone, observing the tourists and residents walk around while letting the past embrace me with its sultry hug.

As I sit in a table in front of the caffée and I remember the old library where we heard about The San Clemente Syndrome - I think about the poem and how its meaning has affected me ever since: the knowledge of everything that shapes and bolds me that layers themselves into one another inside my being and that makes me painfully notice how Oliver and that summer is always the main one, the center of me, my event of a lifetime that is bound to dictate how my love, my time, my memory lives with smashing force and severity. I catch myself thinking and reading these poem eventually, and a grasping force reaches for my heart every time. The remembrance of that night, where those people and those words made me feel like I belonged so naturally right where I was sooth me, though. So as the view of this place, even after all theses visits around: the big square, with the benches and buildings that opens to the sea, remains the same. I spot the war memorial where we stopped by the day I told him the impulsively told him about my feelings; and with the corner of my eye I can see a building that resemble the one in Rome where he kissed me openly in front of other people, too drunk or too in love to care, while the warm night praised us. There is even a streetlight in front of it like the one from back then, and if I focus enough, I'd be able to place us right there on our spot, my back against the wall, my leg over his body, his body over me, clenching mine; but I don't picture none of it. I won't give my wicked mind a gap for the sadness to come - there are moments where the pain is unbearable and I think I will love nothing else until the rest of my days, which can probably be true, but I don't want to stain the memories I have with him here. This should be a happy place - my little town, home of my family, my blossom and my love. So I push my sunglasses up and annalyse the chords, placing rhythm and compasses letting the sounds float through my imagination while my eyes dance through the sheets, muffling all the surrounding noises.

I try to lose myself in the melody, but I am already lost; I've been lost for so long now. The way I transcribe my symphonies ever since last year seems disorderly, mixed, worn. Like my mind has lost its place, my soul drove away with the sound of the cab's engine, and my life gained new, somber tones. We wandered around the piazza last year and now I am here by myself. But this doesn't - or shouldn't - bother me anymore. I am not indignant or angry or mad. I acknowledge I'll always miss something unreplaceable and I just stopped denying it, accepting the best is behind me, for better or for worse. Therefore, this is the normal way I do my stuff now - transcribe music, work, go out, live: mixed and messy and troubled. I scramble down the notes with my handwriting accompanying my thoughts and dancing roughly through the sheets. That feeling wouldn't leave me though and I catch myself thinking about it again: that whisper on the back of my mind isn't going away and I am starting to get angry at myself - what am I missing? What should I be looking for? I'm asking too much of me and my mind just wants to incite my expectation and the kill it cruelly and I need my naive, blank hope to crumble down. Now.

I breath in deeply. The melody stars to sound faded in my head and I decide to stop. No point on doing half a job. I stand up and leave - not having bought anything, for this would always be a place of books to me and the coffee smell filling the atmosphere shows they aren't selling those - directing to the ice cream shop. The vanilla flavor dances on my tongue while I walk next to the sea, observing the waves come and go while letting the sound calm me. I finish my ice cream and take off my sunglasses, letting the light play tricks on my eyes. Little white dots are dancing in my sight and the sea comes in and out of focus. The sea waves shot some violent winds at me, little splashes of salty water hitting my face and I am almost sent backwards. The universe seems mad. Like in that day.

I turn around to go back to the piazza. I stared too intently at the sun and my vision unbalanced for a moment. New shots of white spots were sent and the whole place seemed lighter and wider. Everything unfocused for a moment and then came right back to the right way. But the mirages didn't stop. For Oliver is standing right before my eyes.

I didn't believe what I was seeing. I paralyzed for a second and immediately mocked myself and cursed my mind for playing such a trick with my sanity, because to put him there when he wasn't actually there was way too much sense of self-destruction. I spent my life staggering between accepting reality and not living in my fantasy and diving so deep in my illusions of our imaginated world that I just didn't know what to feel or do now. I could sense my walls getting steadier, trying to fight him and cover my sight from that mirage, but also feeling myself strong enough to tear them all down, break everything just to get to him, even if he's unreal. So tempting. And I stay put, dazed by this dilemma, going back and forth, go there or stay here until he - it vanishes, punch it, punch myself, run away or curse at the wind. I open and close my eyes quite rapidly, trying to make it go away; I try to rub my hands on them, but he wouldn't leave.

The vision of Oliver came on a bike, one that resembled the one I had back home and that laid on the floor while he is just standing still. Should I go there and face it? Stop right in front of him and yell at nothing until it disappears with a puff of smoke? Or should I just stay still until my illusion gets tired of my passiveness and boringly fades away?

My feet then decide to take action for me and drive me one step ahead, and the another, and another; small, insecure steps. Everything is a bit unfocused and I walk slowly. I feel dizzy. He seems a lifetime away because I feel like walking for long, dragged minutes. He is standing next to the library-caffée, close to the monument and where my bike stands, some tables on the way and some calm tourists talking in muffled voices. I walk and I walk and I walk, until I stop right in front of him. That's when I so wonderly believe. That he is there. He is here. That this is no illusion at all, no ghost or spirit that can be swapped away. This is him. I can feel my mind stop working. My brain can't understand this so it sends send illogical impulses to my body, ones that I can't comprehend and my limbs wouldn't obey so I just stayed put, blinking blankly. I freeze. Completely.

And after some melting seconds, everything comes back to focus. I have never seen anything so clearly. I can feel myself slowly coming back to life, my limbs back on action, suddenly dying to reach him, touch him, look at him, the solidest proof that he was real. I fix my gaze at him and his vision burns in front of me, quenching everything around me.

Oliver is older. He looks older now. His hair is longer than last time, soothingly caressing his face, white streaks a little more present. His eyes still hold the most beautiful shade of blue I've ever seen and they glow as though he was crying, and his gaze emanates age, knowledge, a trace of tiredness; but it burned with undeniable hope, energy and happiness beyond measure, with lines fondling his burned skin. He is wearing a shirt that resembles Billowy and I smile at the thought of me searching desperately for it just this morning. No, not smiling at this. Smiling at him. I smile and then I laugh and I feel a tear drop of my eyes and I am crying and laughing and he starts to cry and laugh too. I dry my face and my sight enlightens and he is still there . My hand stops on my mouth for a second, motioning my utter disbelief. I laugh again as he begins to serious his expression softly again, but I can't move. If I move, he'd vanish, that's all that crossed my mind. If I blink, look away, breath loudly, he'll fade away carried by the wind of the sea. So, since I wasn't moving, he decides to come closer.

I hold my breath when he stops close enough for me to reach him. He glances up and down at me with those eyes, the eyes that haunted my dreams and pierced me in other people's faces every so often, that taunting blue gaze amazing me in reality now. He holds such a piercing pure look at me I feel naked. He regales on my being, my tired eyes, my curly hair, my unshaven beard, my pale skin marked by time. I stand there, only existing to be watched by him, as though it is my life mission. My eyes points some dots on my vision but I shake my head trying to whisk them away. To hell anything is going to disturb that vision right now.

I shakily breath in and lift my arm to touch his. My fingers rubbing softly in his sleeve proves the reality of this with unquenchable strength, completely overwhelming my senses. I caringly observe what has changed, what has not, my eyes travel to every piece of him I know so well - spots apparently random where I placed my love and that made him so astoundingly him: a darker dot of blue on his left iris, a spot on his neck, a tiny scar on his hand. He closes his eyes in delight and relief once I move my hand to his elbow and forearm and when my fingers entwine on his, I feel that nothing has ever made so much sense in my life but this . His soft and calloused and warm fingers attached to mine. He smiles soothly and I squeeze his fingers, again and again and he squeezed back hard and kindly. I wouldn't ever ever ever ever let go of that hand again, if that hand was a mirage then let it be, I'd live with a ghost in the lies of my mind for the rest of my days and I would be thankful for it.

I wouldn't close my eyes now. He can't leave my sight not even for a second so I move closer, carefully.  I need to make sure that he's not to leave, even if this hadn't and wouldn't ever cross his mind. My head had been so settled on the certainty that he wasn't ever coming back, I had obliged myself into accepting so fiercely that now I needed concrete evidence that I was, thank heavens, so wrong. I stare and stare and stare until I believe it. My other hand cautiously moves to his face, stopping seconds from touching it, feeling its atmosphere pulling me closer, the cozy heat emanating from him. He feels the gravity of my hand orbiting around him and tries not to move an inch, eyes still close. A little side smile starts to appear on his face and I can't help it. What a sight. The burst from every cell of my body once my skin touchs his soft warm cheek transcends everything I ever read on poems, felt on music, watched on films, observed on other people, everything I thought possible and impossible about love, everything is wonderfully bursted out from me and I am filled with the unspeakable divinity of this - his eyes, his touch, his every cell. How dumb of me to think I'd never see him again, to confine my thoughts and hopes into a little tight box and shut it forcedly. This wouldn't turn out any other way, there was no other place we belong . I'm hit by an incredibly strong urge to lean in closer and closer, just a little bit enough to touch his lips with mine and end my circle of time, love, mind and life.

"I… I had to see you." he finally speaks and my heart burns with the sound of his voice and memory of that day, that day when I craved, needed to be with him and got my bike and rode to town as though my life depended on it. Fuck me, later, afternoon lovemaking , everything just burns in the back of my head and I remember everything. I rode all the way just to see him, because it felt like the most important thing of my life. I see a smile rising in his face and I know he resembled the words as well. I cast a quick look to the strangely familiar bike on the floor and wonder if he's stopped at my house first and did the same, but directing my eyes back to him in the next second . He was looking at my lips when he said those gloryful words and when he looked back into my eyes I craved nothing else but to touch him, hold him, kiss him so dearly.

But I'm cruel. If my mind isn't the one placing that illusion for me, it is sure trying to disrupt the blissfulness of the moment. I stop myself and an urgent warning filled up my mind. His wife. His life. The thought falls right above the wonders of having him back, like a bad taste filling my mouth; and I try to force myself not to ask, to not think about that, not right now, but I feel the urge to spill the words all the same. Because this time, I feel something different. Maybe it was in the desperate way he jumped out of his bike or the way his eyes are glowing with something wilder and stronger or the way his hands clutch me so steadily. Like he's not held back anymore. I feel certainty emanating from his grip, a lack of fear that everyone seeks to have, that confidence that I acknowledged in him when he arrived at my house so long ago and I know something has changed but I stop myself once more. What if it hasn't changed at all?, the annoying voice would whisper in my head, venomously; it'd hurt too much to hear from him that no, he hasn't left her and yes, he was happily married, and therefore this was just a relapse and I would have to settle with an eventual necessity, just a momentary boredom of normality, to be the other, the spark that casually flings then fades. But I wanted to know, that little glitch of hope that always lived in my heart could not be shut down this time. And, with my thoughts ringing down on my ears, I am about to ask quite directly, already pointing out the word "wife" on the tip of my tongue when he talks first. 

He sees the question in my look and answers before the it comes out of me. "No. I… I am not with her anymore." he speaks slowly and steadily and I close my eyes. To hear such blissful words from him. He looks at me and suddenly his eyes harden up and he acquires a serious tone - though he did not move away. “We talked. I explained it. Well, not explained it entirely, but enough for us to understand that it could never work." He looks to my hands and squeezes them before staring back into my stunned eyes again. "We are fine, me and her. The kids are fine. I still love them completely. It was hard. But you… you." He loses himself in thoughts observing my partly opened mouth until he smiles faintly, as though agreeing with whatever was crossing his mind. "Yeah. You." He said it as though I was the most wonderful thing in the world. He was here and I thank God for never have driven myself into the drowning night, never have shut myself to not come back, never have doubted that he loved me as much as I never stopped loving him, to never have despised life, to never have stopped thinking of him because everything around was him and he is me and I thank myself for having accepted him into my life so long ago and to have him right here again. My mind bursts with a thousand desires - I'd pledge for him to call me by his name, hold me, kiss me, drink my tears, caress me, be close to me, never let me go - but he says it and he looks at me like I truly am the most amazing thing he ever crossed in his life. And I believe in him. And my mind falls in peace and my body falls into his arms and I make him my home.

And I bring my heart and my flaws, my thoughts and my emotions and settle there and to stay, at last. I want to hold him forever, live in the little curve of his neck until I die. I feel alive again, wings spread, a whole bright sky above me and such colors all around me and it feels so relieving and astounding to seize this moment in its entirety. I try to seize the immensity of this while squeezing his arms, to make sense of how big that was in my life, what this means and I see that I am still not able to, I still don't know what this is, even after all these years; I still don't know how to explain what we have but it is pure, wonderful and mystical and whole. He squeezes me tightly just for a second, a second where our bodies connect as though they were different poles of a powerful magnet, two souls that belonged together binding again after so many time apart; but then he draw apart a little, with difficulty - for I wouldn't let go and he seemed to be taking a really hard effort on separating our bodies.

I see him looking at me like that and I know I won't be able to be satisfied with only holding him right now - even though it feels like heaven on earth. I have him here, body and soul, fully and completely, as real as I feel, and if just his sight and embrace already took me to paradise, to seal his lips with mine would me whole. I want to kiss him without having to wonder if he wants to, to check if there is any obstacles between us, because now it is this uncomplicated. He moves away just enough so our heads align and we stand face to face, my hand on his elbow and arm, his on my cheeks, eye to eye staring right there in the deepest parts of our beings. And then, after a year, after twenty years, after a lifetime that flashed as a second, he calls me by his name. And when I whisper "Oh, Elio." by his mouth, laughing with delight, my name never sounded so sacred. Because that's where our names belong, in between each other lips, being said only by our specific tones of voice. I hear him say my name and then I call him by mine, as though they were one and there was, once again, no way to tell us or tear us apart. Like promises exchanged. Like the biggest proof that it is real, that it never stopped being real and that all those times where we called each other's names in the dark and alone were worth it because they led us here to say it now. Once more, our timing is proven to be so precise - we reunited exactly when we needed to and now there was no need to fall apart again. Fantasy and reality finally reemerged, in a beautiful symphony of the divine sounds. The clear sky greeted us and embraced our love as though putting all things back in their place. And with our names exchanged and our souls bonded and our bodies as one, we kiss. In front of tourists and natives, in front of the caffeé servers, the war monument and the spirits of the dead, in the middle of a piazza in the Italian summer we know so well, surrounded by the sea waves and the light wind that is casting on us, blessing the reunion. It is slow, and kind, and passionate and I realize how dull the other lips were, how excruciating my life has been, how unbearable it would be physically and emotionally to have been away from that man for another second longer, how I need him in the most pure sense of the feeling and how that feeling is now magically extinguished and my heart is filled with his touch and his taste. Our tongues meet and we feel the longing ache in every nerve of our body scream and every angustiating emotion perish with the proximity, the energy, the love; but we were slow, as though we have all the time in the world.

And, most blissfully, we have.

The sensation of his beautiful lips in mine makes me feel like nothing changed at all and everything changed too. The entire world did transformed, each one and all of us experienced thousands of intern revolutions during this time and yet our touch remains the same and surprisingly, I don't feel 17 again, I feel 38 but complete, fulfilled, enough, amended with all the years behind me and awaiting for all the ones to come with calmness and sheer curiosity - in syntony with everything I was, am and will be from this day on. I feel my shoulders freed of all my weighing sorrows and worries and that same skinny guy from before emerges, most relieved. There I was, surprised again because wonders haven't yet ceased. Completely mesmerized by life when I thought to be nothing else. When I thought I had to contempt. I wouldn't. I won't. I feel like I've been driving around all my life with the radio on searching for some song, anything that even resembled to a melody and now it has suddenly lighten up with the most wonderful music, the one that fits just perfect to the moment and makes you be aware of yourself and how wonderful to be alive is and connect with everything around me, nature and my soul and him. To feel his lips and his tongue and to feel his body responding to mine so loosely in his unique way exploded my world with the most beautiful sentiments. I feel stars rising up in my heart, the most shiny night burning in my eyelids, a thousand shiny dots lighting up the sky of my love. For he is back. My dream, my live, myself is back.

The little slow kiss he places on the corner of my lips promises a whole new round and a whole more to come later. Later . On that day, that night, that week and that life to come. We wouldn’t fall apart. Never again. Here, in the States, anywhere he'd want to go, we'd go together. I don't let him step away, I hold him again before he even considers moving - which I didn't think he did - harder and tighter, breathing all the agonies of living without him on his soft shirt, his strong shoulder. He places his big, caring hands on my shoulder blades and caresses it, and presses it, and holds it with the tenderness and the delicateness of a rare unique manufacture. And I think you kill me if you stop you'll kill me if you stop you'll kill me if you stop and he doesn't.

And so calmly, my mind is filled with a pleasant vacantness, a space being spread to all the wonders ahead, waiting quite patiently for them, pleasingly adjusting to the idea that now I don't have to worry about the thing that me and him always had to worry about: time. Because now we have it. I once agian become aware of the irrevocable magnetism our cells have for one another, the urgent need of maximum proximity, of complete unity. He says his name in my ear again and to feel my entire body respond immediately; shivers running through my arms, a delicious arousal filling my pores is a wonder. All the other times my name was ever used by anyone but him fade away, mundanely, because those times weren't important. The meaningfulness we give to each of our two words when we spoke them is overwhelming every time. I whisper his name in his mouth and they say it loudly, "Elio, Elio, Elio" and laugh while all the wonderful thoughts swim through my mind and the smell of coffee surrounds us and the sea wind floats around while my hands are in his cheeks and all the time in the world is miraculously and peacefully welcoming us ahead. To hold him and be held by him and bring each other home. We were home. At last.

And I knew that's where I'd always be. For Oliver was here. And he wasn't ever going to leave. Our foreheads touched with each other and my mouth tasted of vanilla and him, the tourists were looking and smiling as though they witnessed the most magical moment, the bright colours every building and person seemed to emanate when I looked around turned the world into the most beautiful wonder. Him, specially. He was glowing, the only thing I could really pay attention to in the sea of wonderness my life was now. Light of my life. My path, my beginning, my end, my soul, my joints, my cells, my sight, my body, my whole - Elio, Elio, Elio... What a gift to have you back.

 


the end (or, perhaps, the beginning).