Having had enough of Florida’s winter fun and sun for the. day, I’m sitting in front of the television in Nonnie and Papa’s 18th story living room, when the doorbell rings. Papa’s back at his store in Chicago and Nonnie’s in the kitchen making lunch, so I shuffle across the plush wall to wall, to the large double-doors.
And there, on the other side, stands a tall, slender figure with short, blonde hair and frosted highlights; impeccably dressed in a pastel pink shirt, a flowered, silk kerchief, and crisp, white linen pants.
The stranger asks if Lenore is in.
I turn toward the kitchen and holler, “Nonnie, there’s some lady here to see you!”, before scrambling back to the television.
It’s the first time I’ve met Stanley, Nonnie’s friend (and hairdresser), who also happens to live in the same building with his boyfriend, Roger. I would have felt embarrassed after learning of my gender mistake, but according to Nonnie, he was never more complimented.
Not only is Stanley Nonnie’s most colorful and lively Florida companion – by far – but he can make her giggle more than anyone (besides my great aunts) I’ve ever seen. Even more intriguing is that Nonnie astonishingly and unreservedly gives Stanley center stage. (It’s hard not to.)
In return for stepping back from the preferred spotlight, Stanley showers Nonnie with adulation for her fashion sense, culinary skills, and interior design flare.
It’s a match made in heaven. (Even though Nonnie has to whisper a lot when it comes to talking about her new friend.)
At Stanley’s invitation, we visit their little slice of beach-side paradise two floors up.
It has the same exact layout as Nonnie and Papa’s, in reverse. But that isn’t what disorients me.
It’s the feeling that I’ve just entered another dimension where Nonnie’s alter ego is given free rein. Where, with unimpaired power, her better dressed Doppelgänger has adorned every nook and cranny, every floor and piece of furniture, with textile and tactile expanses of purple.
With chintz and animal prints.
Golden cupids and satin pillows.
Velvet love-seats and silk bed sheets.
And endless yards of draped chiffon.
Where opulent silk flower arrangements sits on every gilded credenza and a colorful porcelain dog, cat, or bird resides around every corner.
As Stanley sweeps from room to room with measured grace and exaggerated ease, Roger – a dark, quiet man (who left a wife and kids, and a lie behind) – stands in the background, smiling contentedly. Proud of his plush and private paradise, where he and Stanley are completely free.
Even though, to me, Stanley seems as free as he can be; floating ahead of us into the newly wall-papered kitchen.
Stepping in behind Nonnie, I first think the effect of the sun streaking through the large bay window overlooking the Atlantic is playing tricks on my eyes, until I realize the walls are choked with make-believe flowers of reds and yellows, oranges, pinks and whites, splattered against a dark purple backdrop – as if the Spring, or perhaps the Easter Bunny, had exploded.
It’s absolutely glorious.
And so is Stanley.