There’s a viral clip in circulation right now that’s already been published here today, but it’s one that I think might deserve a little more conversation. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a three-and-a-half-minute-long, black-and-white short shot by filmmaker Tatia Pilieva, as part of an ad campaign, that features several strangers sharing a kiss. As the couples you see are, again, complete strangers, it takes the long-romanticized notion of the “first kiss” and both amps it up and turns it on its ear. You know what it feels like to kiss someone you’ve longed to for some time or even for a little while, but imagine the myriad feelings that would fire like electricity through your mind and body if you reduced that time to just a few seconds and put the whole thing in a setting in which nothing beyond that first kiss is expected.
What’s captured on Pilieva’s camera isn’t just awkwardness giving way to buckets of internet-ready cute. It’s often something much more than that — a kind of beautiful, indescribable magic. Because that’s what a kiss is, or certainly what it can be — magic. It’s the place where every emotion imaginable can be transmitted from one person to another and between them both, from attraction, to desire, to sweetness, to passion, to comfort, to desperation, to warmth, to unyielding love. There’s no more intimate statement between two people than kissing. It truly is the best part of sex and anyone who tells you differently is doing it wrong.
I remember only one first kiss clearly. It was the one I shared with my current girlfriend, Taryn, more than two years ago. It has nothing to do with its having been the most recent, with those before it somehow clouded by time and buried under the many memories made since. I remember it perfectly because it was the best, and, in some ways, most transformative first kiss of my life. She and I had spoken a few times via social media for years but had never met face-to-face, each of us living out our personal triumphs and tragedies on separate coasts and only occasionally aware of the other’s joy or misery. When I made the decision to move to L.A., I decided to look her up and suggest we finally meet in person and maybe get a drink. I was almost three years out from a devastating break-up and divorce and still had no desire to get close to anyone, but I knew I could use a friend in a city that had the potential to still be haunted by some difficult memories.
When the time came to meet her, though, I was terrified. Or maybe I was simply forcing myself to be indifferent in an attempt to keep myself anesthetized in the name of self-preservation. Either way, I almost backed out. But in the end, I went and met Taryn at a crappy bar on Hollywood Boulevard just before she had to go to work at a show that night right across the street. It was New Year’s Day, 2012. We sat face-to-face. We had a couple of drinks. We laughed. Honestly, I had a great time. And best of all, I was relaxed and comforted by the idea that I could, in fact, relax around someone again. When she had to go to work, I walked her across the street and when I went to say goodbye to her she leaned in — and kissed me. And I breathed in deeply, closed my eyes and simply gave in to it, got lost in it. I had forgotten how much a moment like that, an act like that, makes you feel. I’m glad she did it. I might not have. I didn’t have the nerve. I was still too detached and too wounded.
What I’m trying to say is that as you watch the strangers in this ultimately moving video kiss, you realize that maybe something more is often happening in those brief seconds than a million poets in a million languages could ever come close to putting into words, regardless of the fact that it’s all part of an ad. Maybe it’s just me, but kissing is magical. It’s loving. Healing. Wondrous.
Even between those haven’t met until that very moment, whether they’re complete strangers or merely people who’ve never faced each other in person and who never imagined they ever would, there’s something kind of miraculous about it.