Call Me By Your Name – Read or Watch?

‘Did I want him to act? Or would I prefer a lifetime of longing provided we both kept this little Ping-Pong game going: not knowing, not-not knowing, not-not-not knowing? Just be quiet, say nothing, and if you can’t say “yes,” don’t say “no,” say “later.” Is this why people say “maybe” when they mean “yes”, but hope you’ll think it’s “no” when all they really mean is, Please, just ask me once more, and once more after that?’
 Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman, pg18

To me that is beautiful. Beautiful writing, beautiful thoughts.

It reminds me of the pace I loved within Virginia Woolf’s modernist writing, during which commas are usually the preferred punctuation, and Full stops are almost constantly null and void, because who needs to take a breath when reading a paragraph…

This pace ensures that these thoughts are read with honesty, realism, and such a genuine urge to have questions answered.

This is the first Andre Aciman novel that I have read. With Call Me By Your Name now on screens as well as bookshelves, I thought I’d have a look.

It was so intimate. So blunt, and so real.

There were moments throughout the book that felt uncomfortable to read. For example a bizarre sexual encounter with a peach and an awkwardly personal sharing moment in a hotel toilet. But I believe it was the intention for me to feel strangely invasive reading these chapters.

The relationship that wanted to exist and sometimes did throughout this book of recollective writing is deeply personal, as relationships should be. There are moments in any and all relationships that exist only between yourself and that significant other, that you do not want to be shared or discussed on a wider scale or regaled for larger audiences. Andre Aciman wrote these moments, and by placing them throughout the novel, the reader then became the imposing third party.

The film focuses on the innocence of the younger character, which I think is fantastic. During the book these same moments are narrated through the eyes of someone who has experienced them and who has gone on to experience more beyond that. The voice of the novel knows, whereas the eyes of the film do not.

For that reason I believe that neither is better or worse than the other. Instead they read and view as the same story existing through different tenses, times and levels of maturity. Both can be wrong or both can be right in their interpretation of life and the events of that summer. The film is a set of young eyes before they gain the experience that leads to the book narration, but regardless, both are those same eyes. Innocent, then knowledgeable.

Call Me By Your Name by [Aciman, Andre]

If anything James Ivory and Luca Guadagnino took a beautiful, reflective, honest novel and stripped it right back to the innocent romantic internal struggle.

I will be reading more by Andre Aciman.

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The Waiting Room Silence

Waiting Room
Betrayed

Waiting rooms are always the annoying places where a simple five minutes feels like an hour.

Waiting at the doctors for my name to be muffled through the speaker I noticed a face from my past.

I say past… it isn’t that long a time span.

And I say a face… but it was more a shape purposefully concealed with hair.

An old friend who stopped answering my phone calls.

I began to think that this five minutes was going to feel even longer than an hour.

We were close and I was almost always her shoulder to cry on. When she came out of the closet, when her parents got divorced, when her dad ended up in prison… she had a lot of tough times and I was always there throughout all of them.

Then I went to university and she started working. Every time I came back home for the holidays we would meet up numerous times, go to the cinema, get something to eat, catch up and chat.

Then she stood me up for the first time. I waited outside the cinema for nearly an hour before she finally answered her phone and told me she had completely forgotten that we were supposed to be meeting up. She called herself a terrible friend over and over. I was annoyed, very annoyed. But I told her it was okay, that we’d rearrange.

Then she stood me up again and called herself a terrible friend again.

She stopped answering my phone calls and didn’t return my text messages.

She disappeared completely.

I even went round to her house to see her and no one was in. Three times.

I gave up.

This was the first time I had seen her in person for five years, even though we lived in the same small town. I was expecting her to look up and smile, maybe even say hello. Waiting Rooms are never that big, and there isn’t really anything else to do but wait…

But instead there was nothing. Just silence. Like I wasn’t there. She had seen me arrive. Heard my name as I confirmed the appointment time. There was no excuse to not know who I was. Everyone in the Waiting Room knew my name at that point. Things often echo around the walls of Waiting Rooms.

I was shocked at how much her silence hurt.

When I was younger a different friend began avoiding me because of my epilepsy, resulting in her grand statement that it was my own fault. When I think of her I am angry, I know I will never have a conversation with her again. Looking at her would disgust me.

This friend, sat in a chair in this waiting room, avoiding eye contact, had never made any hurtful statements life this. If anything she was always derogatory about herself when talking about our friendship. She had never hinted that my epilepsy was a problem for her. She’d never hinted that anything about me was a problem or annoying to her.

She didn’t say anything.

This Waiting Room Silence, even five years later, felt like a betrayal of all the honest moments, all the proper conversations, all the ways we’d confided in one another.

I began to think that maybe it was a look alike type, and that she wasn’t there at all. Then her name got called.

She didn’t even look at me on the way past.

When she came out with her prescription and had to queue at the desk to book another appointment I was convinced this would be the moment to acknowledge me. But again… nothing.

Over the years I have been betrayed by people I have trusted, people that I have been there for, people that meant something to me.

And in this waiting room, with everyone sat in silence, with no where to hide, she betrayed me all over again.

No phone calls, no text messages, and now no eye contact.

Others I spoke to said that she may have been ashamed or felt too guilty at the way she’d treated me to start a friendly chat.

Personally, I think she just couldn’t care less.

It felt like forever with that Waiting Room Silence.

The Worthless Week

Groundhog Week

If I could relive the last week, would I?

It’s been strange. You see I have been working full time for the first time in my life. It has been five weeks in this new position, and although I don’t really know what I’m doing and I’m still not sure whether I’m capable of this particular job, I am still there.

I still get up at 6.30am, get the first bus at 7.30am, the second at 8.05am, get to work around 8.30am, greet the people I work with, sit at my desk and begin by 8.45am. That is my morning routine.

However, at the end of last week one ear stopped working and I developed a chest infection. I tried to push through it, but eventually I was sent home. A doctor’s appointment concluded with a strict instruction not to go back to work, and a heavily signed sick note.

This entire week was a backtrack to my unemployed days.

Instead of getting up early, I’d get out the bed around 9.30am, have a breakfast that takes longer than five minutes to prepare and fill the day with rubbish television. It was like going back in time rather than repeating it. I’ve hated it.

I realised what a lazy meaningless routine I had developed over those years. How selfish it felt. How bored I really was.

Yes, I started designing and painting a new canvas when I felt back to normal. So yes, I had something to focus on. But it just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t surrounded by a variety of people, chatting at the printer, walking into town at lunch.

Instead I was sat on my bed or on the floor.

Yes, I sit at work and wait for answers to emails and phone calls, I wait to hear agreements and wait to be taught different skills and wait to be given new instructions. But this week I’ve been waiting for the beginning of a television programme, waiting for the eggs to boil, waiting for the first coat of paint to dry.

Not exactly comparable.

Lots of people call their working week the Groundhog days of their life. Following a routine of getting to work, logging onto their computer, answering the expected emails, dealing with the expected phone calls and attending the pre-planned meetings.

However, that isn’t my groundhog week. That is my new life. That is my new structure. It can be tiring. It can be boring, confusing or difficult. It can be all the negatives in the world, but it can never be as depressing as the nothingness of unemployment.

Trust me.

The First Job Nightmare

First!

Is the first always the worst?

I have just been offered a new job, well to be more accurate, my second ever real job. I loved the interview, the officials were fantastic and funny. But to explain why I’m not completely excited and raring to go with this job, I have to take you back a few months…

…To my first job

I had an interview for a Teaching Assistant Placement, and by the time I got home I had a phone call with a job offer. Although it wasn’t with the age group I’d applied for I thought to myself ‘fantastic, a job’, and took it immediately.

When I turned up for work I received no instruction, training or explanation. Instead a building was pointed out to me and I was told to go there. When I got to the door I realised it was coded. No one had given me a code. I had no contract. So, in the classroom I did anything and everything I could.

I didn’t particularly enjoy Early Years, but I didn’t let that effect my interaction with the children. The only blunt flaw I can recognise honestly was my unwillingness to go into the staff room at lunch.

And then there was a pair of wellies.

A young child couldn’t find them, so the class teacher asked me to help with the hunt. I didn’t know another Teaching Assistant was also on the trail. I found them, and she doubted they were genuine so I lifted them over the child’s head to show her.

This sounds inconsequential and just an average part of an Early Years Classroom Assistant’s day. But then I walked back into the classroom and saw this same TA doing a derogatory mocking impression of me.

I was shocked, first trying to convince myself it wasn’t me she was doing an impression of. I knew it was.

I made the decision that I would wait until all the children had gone home and then confront her on it. I would ask whether I had upset her and let her vent and explain. I would then apologise and explain that I never meant to make her feel however it was I made her feel.

That is how I wanted it to go.

This is how it went…

“Hi, sorry. Have I annoyed you?”

“Yes, and if you keep talking to me I’m going to slap you around the face”

I nearly fell over. I immediately apologised even though I had no clue what had made her feel so violent. I tried to find out by asking a few times, but her friend warned me off by telling me she would follow through on her consistent repeated threat of ‘a smack’.

I knew deep down that this was the end of this job. How can you work alongside a woman that wants to hit you and another that supports her?

They left me standing in the car park. I started crying. I phoned my dad who told me to immediately report it because she couldn’t speak to me like that.

I went into the office quite hysterical, which I regret. The Deputy Head took me into the office and got me a tissue and a drink and explained that I shouldn’t act like that in front of a parent. I apologised. Then the Head Teacher turned up and repeated the same reprimand three times making me finally say, ‘look, I said I was sorry’.

I told him what had happened, and to shorten his response it consisted of two main phrases;

‘You need to learn to be more mature in an adult workplace’

‘You should go home and spend the weekend self-reflecting’

I left as my dad said he was outside to pick me up. I told him what had been said and he asked my permission to go in and listen to Head Teacher himself. I think he believed I was missing something out.

Another choice phrase from the Leader of a Primary School:

‘We don’t know what was actually said yet’

I quit.

Now, I’ve been offered this new job. Everything about the job itself and the application process has been completely different. And so was I.

During the interview for that first job I was incredibly posh, prim and efficient. It made me nervous to be myself when I started. This interview began with the male member of staff making a joke about my name and so I thought ‘I’m just going to be myself, sarcasm and all’. It went very well. But I didn’t expect to be qualified enough for the position.

I got the email yesterday with the job offer and contract in black and white.

I’m petrified it will be a repeat of the first time.

I don’t want to quit a job with an official title, in a university setting, doing something I think I will genuinely enjoy.

Fingers crossed my first job was the worst.

The Elderly Tear Removal Service

Moved to Tears

I can’t imagine not finding the act of death sad, or at the very least be put on the verge of outward emotional displays at the thought of it. Especially if it were to be someone close to me. A parent, partner, child, friend. Thinking of it now, I feel as though the death of any of these current or future individuals would linger and constantly cut into the life that I carried on living. This would bring tears.

Then I had a conversation. One that was very macabre from the beginning.

Socialising within the charity organisation I am a part of, I was placed on a table with five women with ages beginning at 72 and ending at 98.

The 98 year old woman began telling me how both her and her husband came on the trips that the charity organises. Then he died. This would be her first one without him.

However, she didn’t tell me this with tears in her eyes.

She carried on elaborating to me whilst the others began to discuss a recent funeral. She told me how she had never been to his grave. That her parents had a plot just a few over from his.

She didn’t seem sad even though the topic was morbid. It was a conversation like any other.

Her father passed first, and her mother, on her deathbed, told her daughter never to come to the cemetery. To never visit her grave or her fathers. She told her daughter that she didn’t want the grass around the gravestone trimmed, that she didn’t want flowers. That she didn’t want her daughter there.

And her daughter, now sat to my right and 98 years old, had never visited the grave of her father, the grave of her mother or the grave of her husband.

I asked her whether she wanted to or whether she ever would.

She looked at me as if I’d asked the most absurd question and replied with a confident ‘no, never’.

To me that is tragic and sad. To her it was fact and choice.

Upon her mother’s request it is likely that she cried. But not anymore. She admired, responded respectfully and fulfilled her mother’s wishes. That in itself is beautiful.

Thinking of it, even as I type, the morbid beauty of her act hits something inward and robs me of breath. But not to her as she spoke about it.

Does age dry up the tears?

Do the tears stop moving once life is thoroughly experienced?

Gene Wilder’s Good Deed

It Builds Character

I remember watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child and being completely absorbed by the character of Willy Wonka. From reading the book, I then saw Gene Wilder’s interpretation and realised that he was exactly how my youthful mind had imagined.

Then he delivered that one line.

“So shines a good deed in a weary world”

I was moved. All throughout, Mr Wonka was conveyed as comically unbalanced to the point of madness, depth only being found within his passion. But then, reaching out for Charlie’s Ever-Lasting Gobstopper, Gene Wilder said those nine words. Suddenly I saw a character with so much more depth. Willy Wonka was given an intelligent sadness, which could be voiced through phrases that, even in context, could be deemed completely irrelevant.

Throughout life individuals have given speeches that have shaken the world and filled books with potentially moving quotations. These words, either spoken or written, can give strength and inspire.

Now a single line from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might not meet that standard but, for me, it was the most moving part of the entire movie. Not the Oompa Loompas, not Mike TV or Veruca Salt, not even the lifetime supply of chocolate. Instead that one scene in the half office.

Gene Wilder showed me, even from a young age, that levels of character analysis and depth of emotion can be altered drastically from just one scene and one sentence.

This has followed me through almost every essay I’ve written, as I was constantly reprimanded in my college and university days for focusing on one phrase or one stanza, rather than on the piece in it’s entirety.

“So Shines a Good Deed in a Weary World”

An Unwilling Atheist

Un/Faithful

I am an unwilling atheist.

I am confident that there is no other world than the one we currently occupy, and yet I don’t want that confidence.
I read Biblical Testaments as moralistic tales, and envy those for whom some sense of reality emerges and comfort is gained.
I watch some sing hymns and get truly involved and moved, whilst for me they are lyrics to read and appreciate.
Personally sermons are well structured, strongly emotive speeches from the pulpit, and yet for others they are inspirational testimonies of belief.
I have met those that have willingly devoted their lives to the church in one way or another, and yet cannot comprehend the might of their motivation.

For me religion is fascinating. Raised in the Catholic Church I have come into contact with many forms of iconography, exceptional architecture, striking sculpture and beautiful paintings and drawings, all of which are based on a world created through many pages in a large book that is supported over an altar.

I have spoken to a variety of people about their Lourdes’ experience and listened to stories of arising from the water dry and different. Intelligent aware individuals tell me how they felt stronger after that moment. I do not believe this to be ridiculous, and I shun those that do. I do not undermine their belief by placations and pacifications. Instead I see it as faith. And not just faith, but a strong faith.

I would look at Lourdes, take in the architecture, the iconography, the stories of Sainthood and miracles that circle around the spring and see just that. Nothing otherworldly, nothing religiously provocative. Just a place, a thing and a story.

Innate cynicism is unfortunately one of the harshest killers of faith. 

I read works inspired by the religious world, works such as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy, and they inspire strong admiration from me. These pieces, and others using similar inspiration, are beautiful and full of so much depth of meaning. They bring forth all this emotion from me, but not faith.

I envy all those people with real honest faith because they will always have something or someone to turn to, something or someone that is constantly and consistently there.

The pessimistic cynics of the world don’t have that.

I don’t have that.
I wish I did.