I wanted to hear his window open, hear his espadrilles on the balcony, and then the sound of my own window, which was never locked, being pushed open as he'd step into my room after everyone had gone to bed, slip under my covers, undress me without asking, and after making me want him more than I thought I could ever want another living soul, gently, softly, and, with the kindness one Jew extends to another, work his way into my body, gently and softly, after heeding the words I'd been rehearsing for days now, Please, don't hurt me, which meant, Hurt me all you want.
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What is life without this? which was why, in the end, it was I, and not her, who blurted out, not once, but many, many times, You'll kill me if you stop, you'll kill me if you stop, because it was also my way of bringing full circle the dream and the fantasy, me and him, the longed-for words from mouth to mouth, which was when I must have begun using obscenities that he repeated after me, softly at first, till he said, "Call me by your name and I'll call you by my name, " which I'd never done in my life before and which, as soon as I said my own name as though it were his, took me to a realm I never shared with anyone in my life before, or since.
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They are embossed on every song that was a hit that summer, in every novel I read during and after his stay, on anything from the smell of rosemary on hot days to the frantic rattle of the cicadas in the afternoon-smells and sounds I'd grown up with and known every year of my life until then but that had suddenly turned on me and acquired an inflection forever colored by the events of that summer.
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We had never taken a shower together. We had never even been in the same bathroom together. "Don't flush, " I'd said, "I want to look." What I saw brought out strains of compassion, for him, for his body, for his life, which suddenly seemed so frail and vulnerable. "Our bodies won't have secrets now, " I said as I took my turn and sat down. He had hopped into the bathtub and was just about to turn on the shower. "I want you to see mine, " I said. He did more. He stepped out, kissed me on the mouth, and, pressing and massaging my tummy with the flat of his hand, watched the whole thing happen.
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If there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste! (p. 225)
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Everyone goes through a period of Traviamento - when we take, say, a different turn in life, the other via. Dante himself did. Some recover, some pretend to recover, some never come back, some chicken out before even starting, and some, for fear of taking any turns, find themselves leading the wrong life all life long.
Most of us can't help but live as though we've got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there's only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there's sorrow. I don't envy the pain. But I envy you the pain. (p. 225)
As he drove away, I began to think that what kept us together was perhaps not even our romance with an imaginary France. That was just a veneer, an illusion. Rather, it was our desperate inability to lead ordinary lives with ordinary people anywhere-ordinary loves, ordinary homes, ordinary careers, watching ordinary television, eating ordinary meals, with ordinary friends-even ordinary friends we didn't have, or couldn't keep.
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Over the years I'd lodged him in the permanent past, my pluperfect lover, put him on ice, stuffed him with memories and mothballs like a hunted ornament confabulating with the ghost of all my evenings. I'd dust him off from time to time and then put him back on the mantelpiece. He no longer belonged to earth or to life. All I was likely to discover at this point wasn't just how distant were the paths we'd taken, it was the measure of loss that was going to strike me-a loss I didn't mind thinking about in abstract terms but which would hurt when stared at in the face, the way nostalgia hurts long after we've stopped thinking of things we lost and may never have cared for.
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Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the truth, maybe I didn't want things to turn abstract, but I felt I should say it, because this was the moment to say it, because it suddenly dawned on me that this was why I had come, to tell him "You are the only person I'd like to say goodbye to when I die, because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense. And if I should hear that you died, my life as I know it, the me who is speaking with you now, will cease to exist.
There comes the time at every Passover seder when someone will open a door to let in the prophet Elijah. At that moment, something like a spell invariably descends over the celebrants, and everyone stares into the doorway, trying to make out the quiet movements of the prophet as he glides his way in and takes the empty seat among us.
Writing the past is never a neutral act. Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons... provided we can live with the reasons. What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction.
I was born into a Turkish family that had acquired Italian citizenship. Many members of the family subsequently became British, French, Brazilian, and German, so there was a bit of everything. It was not uncommon for people in the family to speak seven languages: English, French, Ladino, Italian, Turkish, Arabic, and even Greek.
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Proust is interested in minutiae because life, as he sees it, is seldom ever about things but about our impression of things, not about facts but about the interpretation of facts, not about one particular feeling but about a confluence of conflicting feelings. Everything is elusive in Proust because nothing is ever certain.
Under Nasser, Egyptian nationalism was built on little more than pan-Arab irredentism and anti-Western and anti-Israeli sentiment. Mr. Mubarak retained these powerful brainwashers and allowed the rise of a religious component to further alienate Egyptians from liberal and democratic thinking.
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