There is a painting by an artist named Ron Hicks. It is called “A Stolen Kiss,” and it depicts a couple leaning over a wooden café table, a coffee mug between them, their heads as close together as you can get without touching. It captures that fleeting moment just before a kiss.
I imagine this couple, just previously, to have been deep in conversation. Maybe they have been dating for four months, maybe a year. I imagine it to be late fall, perhaps because of their long-sleeved clothing, perhaps because that is the season I think is most romantic. The painting is quite dark, it uses muted, neutral tones, and it’s reminiscent of a Rembrandt or John Singer Sargent. Although Hicks was born in 1965, you can tell he’s an old soul. His work is poetic. It is the canvas equivalent of watching an old, beautifully shot, film. This work in particular sums up everything I envision my romantic life to be: creative, intriguing, stimulating. Unconcerned with the grand gestures, abundant in the moments. The moments that aren’t typically considered Instagrammable. The moments that can only be documented by artists like Hicks. The moments that, in hindsight, you often cherish more than the Instagrammable gestures.
Do you know the movie, Love Story? It was made in 1970 with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. The scene where they are reading separate books, intertwined together on a couch, is the height of romance to me. The scene where they, as newlyweds, buy a modest apartment and are so happy you’d think they’d moved into a palace, is the epitome of romance to me. I have never fantasized about being a wife, or having my own house to decorate, or getting proposed to with a diamond ring, for that matter—but I have fantasized about reading together, about kissing in cafes, about going to nostalgic jazz bars and talking softly, heads together, so as not to disturb the music.
I don’t know how long the couple in “A Stolen Kiss” stays together. Maybe it doesn’t work out in the end. But I think, especially in romance, it is about the moments, the experiences. It is a collection of memories to acquire. It doesn’t necessarily need to lead to a certain destination. If the couple from the painting does get married, like in Love Story, that is wonderful. But whatever happens, at least they know that they will always have that blissful, romantic moment in the fall, where time seemed to stop for a second.
What is your “stolen kiss” moment?