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Thrice Upon a Time

June 5, 2011

MAYBE—in some parallel lifetime—Craig Stevenson went to school to be a musician.  He thought he would be the next John Williams, composing film scores.  He wrote music for lots of classmates’ projects at the Conservatory—classmates who became advertisers and TV directors.

His friends supported him in coming out during college.  He had a string of singer/musician boyfriends.  Craig felt inferior to them.  They sometimes followed his lead and jokingly berated his talent.  Inside he thought they meant it.

He agonized over every note of music he wrote.  But he never defended his work when anyone had different ideas.  He thought he was being collaborative; he was just being weak.

He was no good at marketing himself.  After failing to get several musicals produced, he ended up a studio musician in LA.  Music became just a job.  He tried to get back in contact with old Conservatory friends.  He was frustrated that none of them returned his phone calls.

Ten years later, he looked at the scores of his musicals again.  He threw them away.

Now he’s started taking night courses in accounting.  He’s seeing a banker.  They jog along the Venice Beach boardwalk together in the morning.

OR MAYBE Craig became an advertiser.  He dated several sweet-talking boys in college who always seemed to want his help on projects.  Along the way he developed a taste for alcohol and drugs.

He graduated with a killer portfolio and went to work in Chicago.  He was soon a star employee and was secretly dating his boss.

But he was an introvert constantly pushing himself into an extroverted work life.  He tried to ditch the drugs after college, but he thought he would go insane without them.  He was miserably alone at all the parties unless he was hopped up enough to talk to whoever was beside him.  His boss referred to him as “the man behind the curtain” to clients—Craig thought is was a backhanded way of saying he was unattractive.  Eventually, the addictions started affecting his work.  His boss dumped him both personally and professionally.

He had nothing in the bank and credit card companies hounded him.  After some friends made him go to rehab, he couldn’t sleep at night.  He thought the police would break into his apartment southeast of Chicago and arrest him—just for being a failure.  He wondered what financial security would feel like.

Now he works two retail jobs and is barely getting by.  He wants to ask out his therapist, but he hasn’t even said he’s gay yet.

OR MAYBE Craig went to interior design school.  He traveled to Paris to study, living in a cheap one room flat for a year with three other students.

After graduating, nobody was hiring in New York.  He started his own design firm, first in Princeton, then Fort Lauderdale, finally landing in Toronto.  He became personal and professional partners with a guy who obsessively sewed every night until 2:00 AM.  They weren’t well to do, but did well enough.  They were happy.

Craig visited a friend and stopped to envy her studio piano.  He sat down for a moment and brushed his fingers over the keys.  He was surprised to sniff back a tear.  He didn’t remember how to play.

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