In 1928, the Belgian René Magritte, a man with a hat, a pipe and maybe a granny smith apple, he painted ‘Lovers’, four versions of the same enigmatic issue: a couple kisses but their mouths never touch –the lips, the flesh– because some fabrics surround them and prevent palpitation, human warmth.
I write this with my eyes fixed – without fabrics or webs – on the framing that the MoMA in New York has; she, in a red sleeveless dress; him, with tie and black suit. On the ceiling, to our right, a molding typical of a bourgeois room.
In the variation exhibited by the National Gallery of Australia, the couple has another position, with their heads together and looking at the painter as if posing for a photo. Behind, a landscape, a patch of sea in the distance, a vanishing point. Despite the static rags violence, the image is not disturbing, surely due to the affectionate gesture of the heads, which are raised and not bowed, showing that the lovers control the performance.
The degree of trust with the other is graduated in the forms of approach: kiss on the mouth, hug and kiss on the cheek, kisses on the cheeks, lace of hands, hands in pockets, arms akimbo or greeting by raising the palm
The cloth does not cancel or disturb them “At least, not too much.” In the television series ‘Watchmen’ (HBO Max), which is inspired by Alan Moore’s comic, one of the detectives, Looking Glass, covers his head with a reflective mask without slit for eyes, nose or mouth, or is not appreciated due to the hurtful surface. Unlike what happens with Magritte’s canvases, it does convey unease because it invites us to think about suffocation. As if someone is trying to drown the agent with a silver balloon.
‘Lovers’ are, for me, our lives with masks. And all those kisses that we are not giving.
The degree of trust with the other graduates in the ways of approach: kiss on the mouth, hug and kiss on the cheek, kisses on the cheeks, lace of hands, hands in pockets, arms akimbo or greeting by raising the palm, which is also a stop.
Even with the intimate – and not living together – we find ourselves imprisoned in the last point, not knowing whether to move forward, not knowing what to do with our hands.
That hesitation happened to me a few weeks ago, and it is something that I feel in my soul, when I meet a friend from the north whom I appreciate and whom I have not seen in years. His intention was to hug me bear style, as we had always done, and mine, to get away, which resulted in an awkward and inexplicable situation (I tried to explain myself), acting like those participants who compete with puffy suits that mimic sumo wrestlers and that when they hit their bellies, they bounce. Should we have hugged each other as the heart dictated or keep our distance as the doctors recommend?
As we get closer, thanks to vaccines, these strange, uncomfortable, demoralizing situations occur. I see people pounce and they exercise a squeeze drill, mask by means of, with nodding and kisses in the air, involuntary homage to those ladies with architectural combs and passion red muzzles who kissed the ether so as not to remove their make-up. I don’t want that: I want to hug again in a sincere way.
I have always been hugging and kissing the people that I have loved because it is a way to convey affection, and because it is necessary to restrict physical attentions to a limited and intimate number to be true.
Now I am a scarecrow without knowing what to do, how to move. I don’t know what I want others to do because I live the discomfort of the hedgehog. I know that the containment of the behavior will have future consequences, that when we can kiss and hug each other again there will be tears, tears on their necks, although also relief.
Although the kiss of ‘The lovers’ is impossible, it is not the attempt. Without the shrouds one could arrive at a movie lace, a trumpet auction and an overprinted ‘The End’: the cloths disavow endless happiness.
May we soon take off the fabrics, rags, cloths, shrouds. Let this article be a kiss while waiting for the real ones.