|Wheat Field with Poppies and a Lark, Vincent Van Gogh
Image with quote and painting ©2013 JerseyLils2Cents
Have you ever known someone who can walk into a room and just own it? That aptly describes my friend, Stephan. We shared a non-romantic yet special Valentine’s Day together many years ago. Before I write about that day, let me tell you a bit about my friend.
A little over 20 years ago, I met Stephan at a spiritual teaching center in the East County area of San Diego, California, during the time when I was on a spiritual quest. We hit it off right away. Both of us had moved to California from the East Coast. I was from New Jersey, he was from neighboring Pennsylvania. Stephan was a gifted artist whose paintings were as vivid and alive as his personality. We shared a love of Impressionist period artists, especially Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.
After knowing Stephan for a few months, I mentioned that I was looking for a new roommate. My last roommate had just left after nearly burning down the apartment when she forgot about a pan left on a lit stove while otherwise preoccupied in her room with her boyfriend. Just two weeks prior to that unfortunate incident, she had left the shower running, using up all the hot water and adding to the water bill, again while otherwise preoccupied in her room with her boyfriend. Well, she was nice but an airhead, and it was my apartment to begin with, so she left. Stephan needed a new place and we became roommates. Turned out, Stephan was the best roommate I ever had. Neat, considerate, not only cleaned his own room but helped clean the rest of the apartment too, and paid his share of the rent on time. Plus, he cooked. The ideal roommate!
|With Stephan in San Diego many years ago
|Before you think perhaps we may have gotten together romantically since we hit it off so well, that never happened. It never could. Stephan was gay, proudly gay, sometimes flamboyantly gay, and I loved him. He was energetic, artistic, sensitive, tall, and good looking. My girlfriends would sigh over how a hunk like that could be so unavailable. And don’t think for one moment that a few of them didn’t flirt and try to change his persuasion lol! He took it all good-naturedly, although somewhat warily. He wished people would understand that being gay is not a lifestyle choice, it is who you are. Stephan told me that from the time he was a young boy, he knew he was different. Even his choice of toys differed from the other boys. He didn’t care about trucks; he’d rather play dress up in his mother’s clothes. At the age when the other boys became interested in girls, he found his attraction was to boys instead. Moving to California to start a new life, he slightly changed the spelling of his name from Stephen to Stephan, and felt freer in the more progressive environment of California. I completely understood. For an entirely different reason, I had moved to California to start a new life away from my past.
Not only was Stephan a talented artist, he also had a marvelous sense of design. One day when I came home from work, he had redecorated the living room, rearranging my mismatched flea market furniture finds into a “conversational corner,” painting the plain, wooden crates I used for book shelves, and putting out pretty glass vases with big, brightly-colored handmade paper flowers from Mexico. Wow, that’s my living room? I was amazed and pleased. The guy could really class up a place!
Now, about the Valentine’s Day we shared. Neither of us had dates. He called me at work and said, how about dinner, I’ll cook something for us and get a bottle of wine. Sounded great! Stopping at See’s Candies on the way home, I picked out a delicious assortment of chocolates that would go perfectly with red wine. It was a nice, relaxing evening. Since there was no romance involved, there was no pressure, just good food, wine, and conversation. He surprised me with a lovely Valentine’s gift, a yellow rose, and a colorful red hair clip. I still keep that hair clip in my jewelry box.
We were roommates for less than a year. Stephan moved in with a new boyfriend. Over the next couple of years, we gradually lost touch when I no longer attended meetings at the spiritual center where we had met. Eventually, I met my husband and moved 600 miles away to Northern California.
In 1995, I heard from friends in San Diego that Stephan was ill. Within a few months and before I had a chance to see him again, my friends called to say that Stephan had died from complications of HIV. I was very saddened. He was such a vivacious soul, a brilliant flame so full of life, and now that flame would be no more. Stephan Yancoskie passed away July 14, 1995. The following year, my husband and I moved from California to the East Coast.
I believe people cross our paths in life for a reason. Some just stand out as special in our lives.
Classical music inspired Stephan when he was creating art. The French composer Claude Debussy was one of his favorites, especially Debussy’s lovely, haunting piano solo, “Clair de Lune,” which means “moonlight” in French.
Stephan, my friend, wherever you are in the universe, I am raising a glass of wine for you and listening to "Clair de Lune." Thank you for sharing your love of art with me, thank you for tips on design, thank you for the smiles we shared all those years ago. As life continues beyond in another time and place, may our paths cross again, my friend.