“How long have we known each other?” I asked, the old memories faded in my mind, like the old Kodak films, the colors of which were full of nostalgia. I was not sad this time. We were seeing each other again, in the sunlight, facing the ocean. Golden light shone through the mist formed above rocky cliffs. I felt liberated, energetic and grateful.
“You still had long hair back then. I think it suit you very well.” You said. I didn’t expect it. I remember many things that we did, on the first day we met. The sugar container in the shape of an owl we found in the flee market. We chased the night in the winding allies in the old town, finding corners to steal kisses. I didn’t expect you would remember something specific like this about me.
We walked in the center of the coastal town Ericeira where houses were paint in white and blue. I was in such a good mood that for a long time I was genuinely happy. “Your eyes, Tiago. Every time I see you, I get struck by them. It’s a beautiful feeling.”
As what usually would happen, we took out our cameras and took photos here and there. That’s our thing, discussing films, photos. You listened to me complain about how disappointed I got when a roll of film turned out to be less desirable. You also witnessed my first development of film roll and making my first prints in the darkroom. I know you are here, even though we are apart.
“The sunlight here is gorgeous! God I miss it! Finally I can take amazing photos with my Portras!”
“Then move to Lisbon. You will have it all the time.” You said, as if it’s the easiest thing to do in the world. It’s hard to tell how much you meant it. Nevertheless, it made me dream a little.
Stability is the motto of my life. I build my life in such a way that change doesn’t often find its way to happen. I am like a child who is so afraid of loosing his precious toy that he would hold on to it forever, forgetting the joy of playing with it. But, how can I say no to this beautiful sight, the weather, and the idea of being close to you? “I really do hope so! Damn it, I might as well do that after my retirement!” That’s the bravest thing I could say.
We followed the little path on the cliff that led to the ruin of an old castle. The cliff was covered by flora. You walked behind me. I stopped, turned around and snapped some photos of you. One year had past. You didn’t change at all.
I wanted to hold you, feel your slim body crash into mine, and inhale your scent, thinking everything was alright, in my life, with you, in this world and even in this fucking universe. I wanted it so bad. This is how easily I can find comfort in you. Let’s not put a label to who you are to me. Just know that you have this power to me.
So I did. I carefully put my arms around your neck, hugging you tightly, hoping you could understand what I was feeling right then. I missed you. I missed us. What we had was precious, at least to me.
“Oh, hello.” You said. That has become a habit of yours when intimate moments like this happen. You called me “Chrissy” and made sure it’s ok to hold you. I pulled back my head and looked at you. Then you kissed me. “That’s a little gift for you.” We both laughed. “Thank you and I loved it.”
“How was your trip to Northern Italy? The Call me by your name tour.”
“You mean, the trip that you didn’t join me, even if we had planned to do it together?” I teased you.
“Well, I didn’t have holiday left. “
“It’s alright. I knew. The trip was ok. The film locations look so different from the movie. I guess, I was also being cynical, like an old man, you know, refusing to be overwhelmed by love again. Still, I am glad I did this trip as you know how much this story means to me.” I didn’t want to say “the trip would have been so different, emotionally, if you were there.” I knew that you knew. Call me by your name is another connection that we shared, besides photography. That’s the only moment you opened your heart and let me peer into your inner world, your vulnerability, your fragility after watching the movie over and over again in the cinema. I know somewhere in your heart, something is broken and you are still guarding it against all odds, because I am doing the same.
“You know, sometimes, I don’t think people get it, the way friendship means to me. Like us, we saw each other once a year, but I never felt that you were far away. So many years have past. The connection is still here and strong. I don’t mind time and space. They are irrelevant to the connection that we share.”
“I feel the same.”
The sun set around 6pm. On the way back to my hotel, I saw sunlight fall on your face. You were in the passenger’s seat. I wanted so much to capture that picture, but I had to drive. Something is meant to be left in the memory. I told myself. The rest of the day flew like the river merging into the ocean. Everything became part of us, moments that we had shared together.
“What is the thing that is lacking in your life?” You asked me suddenly, taking me off guard.
“What? It’s such a difficult question.” And I honestly didn’ t know if I wanted to answer it open-heartedly. I was not sure if I could deal with the cruelty that life could show us. “A warm meal after I come back home after work.” Such a coward I was. “And you?”
“I need more organisation and planning. Like you, I do admire your persistence. You are working so hard on your project. Sometimes I don’t get how you can manage.”
“I don’t know how I do either.” I laughed.
We looked at each other briefly and turned our attention to the lights on the other side of the shore. On the terrace, it was quiet, only with the sound of the waves. The wine was like catalyst, clouding the minds with a layer of warmth. I knew our day was about to come to an end. I tried not to feel sad, only if you knew how hard it was.
I drove you back home, crossing half of Lisbon. Before you stepped out of the car, I kissed you. “Thank you for being here, Tiago.”