I was eighteen years old the first time a man kissed me. The first time a man held me in his arms I shook uncontrollably, my entire body collapsing in upon itself. He held me closer, he comforted me, he ran his fingers through my hair. I was eighteen and I had convinced myself I would never be held. Not in the way I ached for but could never ever admit.
A couple months earlier there had been some fumbling with a stranger in his car. He'd picked me up walking home from school - he somehow knew my name. He was the cousin of one of my classmates, or so he said. He asked for my phone number and a few days later he picked me up. We drove out to a field. I thought I might be murdered, so I wrote a letter to my mother and hid it inside of my wallet, apologizing for being murdered.
He didn't murder me. We sat in the field and he played some dirty rap song about blowjobs and then pushed my face into his lap. I saw him a couple times after that. Much the same. He stole some shirts from me and I never saw him again.
I figured that was what I had. It was being murdered in a field, or it was AIDS. Hell-bound, ticket for one. The idea of a man holding me, telling me it was going to be okay - that was so far beyond what I imagined could be possible it was straight up science-fiction. It would never, not ever, be okay.
And then a few months later I met a man. He was seven years older than me. My best friend and I were at the mall and this guy worked there and he seemed impossibly chic. He had jet-black hair (I'd later find out it was dyed and his real hair looked very much like Armie Hammer's hair) and bright blue eyes and he smiled at me this great big smile. A smile that wasn't like other ordinary smiles. A conversation inside of a smile. He wanted to hang out. I felt electric. Everything about those days, looking back, it burns like looking at the sun. I can feel it on the back of my neck, the warmth of it, right now, here sitting at my desk.
The weekend after my 18th birthday he and I were standing in the kitchen of a friend of his in downtown Rochester; for some reason we were alone. He came up to me, all of a sudden, and he kissed me. I can feel his stubble on my chin. His hands holding my elbows, stiff as boards. The kitchen table against the back of my thighs. And I kissed back - erratically, violently, presumably awfully. A desperate thing gasping for air.
Time loses meaning at this point - it folds out and in, minutes become days become months. Some time later - later that day, or weeks later - he and I were watching a movie on the floor of the living-room of the enormous house where he rented a room. I had lied to my mother - this was right before I went to college - and told her I was going camping with "friends" for the weekend. (I still had that letter to her in my wallet just in case.) We were laying on the floor watching a movie and our legs were entangled and his shirt was open and he was touching me and I was touching him and we were breathing each other's breath...
His chest was hairy. I can picture the sunlight in his chest hair right now. My face burns with blood. I felt like I was on fire. I felt like my hands had become these enormous lumbering things and I was going to smother him, to stamp him into bits, to rip him open with want. I couldn't breathe. That night climbing into bed with him I shook violently, like I was having a seizure. My father has epilepsy so I know from seizures, and I thought, "This is it."
I felt humiliated, I felt enormous, I felt alive. I never felt so alive. I saw something that night, a life stretching out in front of me that was possible. Life was possible. Love would be possible for me. Possibility always seemed so utterly impossible before. Love! Imagine such a thing! I didn't have to be tossed in a ditch with my neck broken, cum on my face when the coroner works me over. I could hold a man's hand. I could run my hand along a man's face, feeling the prickle of razor burn across his cheek.
He could put his hand, his big strong hand, on my heart, and calm me - a calm that was more honest than all the terror and pain I had been convinced up until then would be my only lot in life.
Call Me By Your Name brought all of this flooding back over me this afternoon. On my way back to work after the screening I had to stop in the street, step off onto a little doorway, and I shook again. I shook with tears and with memories so strong they tore the breath out of me. A movie is made for everybody to enjoy and I sure hope you guys enjoy it, but this movie meant something more profound to me today than I'm going to be able to properly express right now.
It's all right there in the final shot, an astonishing close-up of Timothée Chalamet going back over everything with his eyes, trembling, this fresh love affair and all the possibility - the future and the past and the life neither he nor I knew was waiting right there, an echo across time and an ache that someone finally, after so many many years, felt along with us.
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