There can be different types of freefalls, can't there? Freefall is hearing Beyonce’s Love on Top. Freefall is watching Celine Dion on stage, showing all of us, uneducated plebs, what FEELINGS look like. Freefall is dealing with a child’s tantrum (trust me on this one). Freefall is body first, guts second. It is when you can’t bear the intensity another moment, yet you wish to stretch this moment to infinity because intensity is suddenly nothing. Freefall is Andre Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name” and you have not lived until you’ve heard it read out to you by Armie Hammer, by the hazy, poison-ivy voice of one of the characters in the film of the same name. Freefalling in it felt like coming home.
“He said “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” which I’d never done in my life before and which, as soon as I said my own name as though it was his, took me to a realm I never shared with anyone before, or since”. Clearly, the 17-year-old Elio doesn’t know sh-t about realms because the out-of-body experience is not his feelings, it is my feelings evoked and undressed by the story read out in Armie Hammer’s voice about Elio’s feelings. Warped and confusing? I hope so. For, like Elio, I am plummeting head first into the solitary experience of a love found and lost, I am the murky-hued dust diffusing in the glares, the silences, the codes, the desires, the pretences. No longer in charge of my feelings, perfectly matching Oliver’s and Elio’s own pathetic and unsalvageable loss of control, I am pretending to cancel dinner plans with my imaginary friends. For I prefer to be alone when my heart is breaking.
“The light of my eyes, I said, light of my eyes, light of the world, that’s what you are, light of my life”. You don’t just listen to this, you HEAR this, and when you can no longer feel the grip on yourself, you rewind it and hear it again, so you could invite more memories of sorrow and welcome more pain. “Light of my eyes”… The agony wears you out in the end, you lose, your emotions are so raw you probably shouldn’t touch any surfaces in case your fingertips bleed out because the skin had been scraped off. You are bruised, trampled, crushed, but it’s ok because what you want is more of that. Or shall I say “I want”, “I am”? I am bruised, trampled, crushed, but the spirit is f-cking soaring. Love can DO that. And in the case of a first love, add to that thinking, overthinking, re-thinking…
“Fire like fear, like panic, like one more minute of this and I’ll die if he doesn’t knock at my door, but I’d sooner he never knock than knock now”. This is as childish as it is devastating, as it is inexplicably satisfying, breaking down every longing thought into sharp fractures. Is it because we love to forever exist like children with open jaws at magic tricks, only the adult magic is having your emotions so flawlessly read? When, after decades of suppressing and hiding, you find a word-for-word of what you’ve always wanted to say but were out of…well…words? No matter – this is not a therapy session, this is a love, and hope, and torture session.
As you continue to read, smacking on every sun-kissed word, on every peachy-sweet syllable, you KNOW what’s looming. Oliver is going to leave, and you and Elio are going to have to die inside. “Later!”, indeed. The cruelty, the rudeness, the insult to the hope you have been desperately gasping for, the smashing and crashing of the ideal narrative, although it’s no longer a narrative, it is the insides of yourself. And, like Elio through Oliver, through the book you want to ask how to feel, you want to know it, and through IT, yourself. You hope not to think of the book’s end, though attempting to do so is not only futile but hurts all the same. “Rehearse the pain to dull the pain”. You wish. Like one character in relation to the other, you wean yourself “a bit at a time each day, like an addict, one day, one hour, one minute, one slop-infested second after another”. I mean, you try, because you’ve really got to get a grip and handle this sporadic weeping on the bus.
And then it’s over. Just like that – no drama, no villain, no real obstacle other than pragmatism and…life. Oliver leaves, as you knew he would, Armie Hammer breathes out the last words in that devastating musky voice and neither you nor Elio will ever feel this way again. Except he is fictional and you are not. “Nothing else had changed. I had not changed. The world hadn’t changed. Yet nothing would be the same. All that remains is dreammaking and strange resemblance.”