When I was about 14, my cousin (my father’s niece) who was a few years older, in college, an aspiring poet, stopped in Indiana on her way home to Minnesota from a school trip abroad. She brought scone mix and a long cylindrical candy with “Stratford-on-Avon'“ printed down the center of it. She brought the Iron Butterfly and Jesus Christ Superstar albums. We sat around the stereo console listening to Inna Godda Da Vida, looking at each other like something from a faraway planet had landed in our living room.
My parents didn’t like her music, but they, like all of us, were taken by her worldliness, her sophistication. She had “class,” my mom and dad said.
I, in probably the most tender phaselet of my budding artist phase, fell particularly hard. For Christmas that year, she gave me a blank journal, which I filled with all my most private thoughts. It’s the first time I remember thinking that my interior life was important, that it had some value beyond me.
I wasn’t a very disciplined diarist. There are long gaps, and much of it is more philosophical musing than chronicle, but I’ve kept that book close to me my whole life. It starts with a tangle of girlfriend problems and ends shortly after I admitted in writing that I was gay. And it records, somewhat elliptically, my first sexual experience at 16.
That diary is the beating heart of my new piece, Jack. The show strays to points before it and points after but is anchored by that book and what I wrote in it.
A while ago, I shared "Now, Here,” the opening song of Jack, and now here is “Then, There,” which ends the show. Both are sung by the older Jack character, who narrates the piece, reflecting on his teen years. (Most of the other songs are sung by the teenage Jack character and others.) The older Jack sings this song to the younger Jack.
I hesitated to share this song. Like so many stories of queer lives, Jack is about, among other things, shame and reconciliation. The narrative thrust of the show is the older Jack’s quest to forgive his younger self, and I didn’t want to give away the ending. But you already knew how it would end, didn’t you?