First Kiss in Rome, by Charlie Grosso

Under “You should contact me if…” section of his profile, he’d written, if you would like to make out with a stranger in a photo booth and call it art.

The bold and somewhat poetic proposition made me laugh. I wondered how many women would say yes. We meet in front of a dingy dive bar on Second Avenue. I wore a dark green cashmere sweater with a hood and we made out in an old-fashion photo booth. I kissed a stranger and we called it art.

He sat in the gallery booth all week. The paintings on display are mediocre and there is to hide his overwhelming boredom. We occasionally exchange a hello through out the week. A quick nod here, a raised glass there. It is 5:15pm on Sunday, there is 45 minutes left before a very long week comes to an end. I am not going to sell any art in these last minutes; all the deals have already been made. A wild thought races through my mind. It would be infinitely more fun to make out with the handsome stranger than to stand in the booth wait for the closing bell. I walk up to him and say just that. He is surprised. He hesitates. Yes. It would be more fun but I don’t think the owners of the gallery would like it. I shrug. We make small talk and I walk away. A few hours later, we find ourselves in a dark half dismantled video booth. How do we do this he asks? I gently slide his glasses off and our lips meet.

We talk about making art out of it. Wishing Well we would call it. It would be an endurance performance piece where we would make out in a booth at an art fair for the duration of the fair. There would be two clear acrylic boxes labeled with YES / NO placed on either corner of the booth and the fair attendees can vote on whether we would work as a couple or not by putting money in the respective boxes. Strangers kissed and there might be art.

We’ve been flirting with each other for 3 year. After a long and just right night in Manhattan, he finally leans across the table and kiss me, nearly spilling our drinks.

In the handicap stall of the women’s restroom in the Ace Hotel, a business meeting took a left turn and suddenly there is a new item on the agenda.

By his beat up blue car after 4 months of endless walks and long lunches, next to Park LaBrea and the distinct odor of the tar pit.

In the corner booth in Minetta Tavern, we are the only people left in the restaurant and Spiders from Mars is playing in the background.

Awkward. Tentative. Electric. Lips and teeth. You go left and I’ll go right. I didn’t know this is what I’ve been waiting for. More. Don’t stop. That doubtful smile slowly emerges and you turn your head away, did that just happen. Could this…What do we do now…?

For every first kiss I remember there many more I no longer recall. We are all strangers before our lips meet.

…and someone made art from it (beautiful).

We’ve been making art from it (classic).


If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

And we will keep making art from it (promise).




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