"Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly."
— John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)
Alexander Graham Abercrombie was born ambitious. He was also born first.
Alex’s twin sister, Eve, followed a few minutes later, hauled unceremoniously through their mother’s emergency caesarian section incision while still in her surprisingly intact amniotic sac. The veil that had separated Alex and Eve in the womb—their sac membranes—persisted into their lives in the outside world. Alex never felt that he could completely connect with his sister, not all the way, as if she was only partially present, or that she’d never quite fully incarnated into life. This sense of disconnection from Eve was not something peculiar to Alex, however; most everybody found it difficult to connect with Eve Abercrombie and her pessimistic view of the world.
Alex was easy to care for as a baby. The twins’ mother, Faye, fussed and worried over her newborns excessively the first few months. At the time Faye was still acutely aware of the pain and grief of the loss of her first child, Adrian, two years before to sudden infant death syndrome when he was just three weeks old. It quickly became clear to Faye, however, that Alex was both strong and self-reliant, and she increasingly gave more of her attention to Eve, who was both frail and temperamental as a newborn.
It was the twins’ nanny, Yantra Srinivasan, who paid the most attention to Alex in his infant and toddler years. She loved Alex easily as one does a family cat, or a favorite armchair. Alex would self-sooth, and entertain himself, even when being bathed or changed, and he easily and steadily grew in size and weight as he had no objections to any offering of food or drink that came his way.
As he grew into his toddler years, Alex became progressively more obsessed with being the center of attention. He would announce his arrival in a room as if everyone present needed to know that he was now a part of their experience; he would spring up from the dinner table as soon as he was allowed so that he could prepare himself for the after-dinner entertainment featuring Alexander the Great, as Alex had named his performing persona; he would spend hours and days engrossed in researching videos of performers, taking in the nuances he perceived that most readily brought about appreciation from their audiences. In a nutshell, Alex was someone who was highly attuned to how others perceived him, and he rapidly became adept at knowing how best to be seen in the most positive light at all times.
When he started school, Alex was the teacher’s pet in all of his classes, seemingly without any effort on his part. Behind the scenes, however, Alex was secretly scheming and efforting all along: the little gifts; the extra effort put into his school projects; the offers to clean the blackboards and dusters, or stay back after class to straighten up the desks and chairs; the alert engagement he brought to each and every one of his classes. The Dalton School, on the Upper East Side of New Eden, as a whole was very appreciative of Alex Abercrombie’s contribution to its life and times, and the entire staff at Dalton were acutely aware of the presence of their prized high-achieving student for the time he attended.
Throughout high school, one of Alex’s unspoken roles was that of Eve’s protector. While Alex loved his twin sister unquestioningly, he was also highly aware of the weight of Eve’s melancholy and negativity, which had the power to drag down the mood of anyone in her general vicinity, much like the whirlpool created in water when a large object is rapidly submerged. As Eve was in most of his classes at Dalton, Alex was able to keep an eye on Eve and her moods without too much effort. During the school recesses, however, Alex often had to search out Eve’s whereabouts when he sensed her distress and she was nowhere to be found.
As is often the case with twins, Alex was able to ‘feel’ his sister even when she wasn’t in his immediate vicinity, though as time went on he tended to block out the negativity, melancholy, and imploded sense of doom that were Eve’s emotional home bases, and all of which were completely foreign to Alex and his inherent optimistic view of people and of the world. When Eve was most triggered or imploded, however, Alex would have to go looking for her in her secret hiding places: the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue, where Eve, having snuck past the reception, could be found strolling up the spiralling gallery deeply engrossed in the museum’s art collection; neatly tucked away in a particular leafy grove just off the 86th St Transvers, in Central Park, that only Eve and Alex knew about; the dog park where E 89th St ended at the East River, where Alex would find Eve gleefully engaged in patting any dog that would allow it.
Alex was frequently Eve’s guardian and protector—both in and out of school—as they grew up in New Eden, but in truth, Alex became progressively more repelled by Eve’s morose moods as he grew into his teens, and at times he even gave up on her altogether. Alex just couldn’t understand why someone would waste away their life feeling sad, and daydreaming about a better life, when it was so clear to Alex that all that was needed to feel happy was to get busy and to make things happen.
“If you’re going to mope around fantasizing about some life that doesn’t even exist, then you can do that all on your own; I’m off to make a name for myself,” declared Alex to Eve after one particularly heated confrontation about the state of her mental health that took place on the twins’ sixteenth birthday.
Alex Abercrombie was not someone who was overly demonstrative of his emotions; he knew what he liked, he knew what was supportive for his growth and success, but Alex wasn’t someone who allowed sentimentality to cloud his clear vision of his future.
In truth, Alex had learned early on—through his close association with Eve—that emotions were messy, and people generally didn’t respond well to overt expressions of messy emotions. Subsequently, Alex’s rapidly developing brain and nervous system had developed a raft of strategies for keeping emotion well and truly at bay, and subsequently keeping people’s perception of Alex well and truly in the positive at all times.
Alex’s relationship with his mother was simple and pragmatic. “You’re my mother, and I love you,” Alex could be heard saying to Faye from time to time, though Eve for one doubted that there was any sincerity at all in these statements.
Alex’s relationship with his father was significantly more complicated, however. In the late ‘90s, when the twins were little, Ken Abercrombie was a very busy man. He was running, and rapidly expanding, the successful computer company—Abercrombie Industries—that he’d inherited from his father, and which would go on to become the world’s leading Artificial Intelligence research and development company for more than a decade in the early 2000s. It was the roaring success of Abercrombie Industries that was concurrently increasing Ken’s personal bank balance to stratospheric levels.
Ken Abercrombie was simultaneously curating a political career that would, undoubtedly, propel him towards his ultimate goal of becoming the President of the United States of America. Alex could clearly sense the ambition and drive in his father—he recognized this same ambition and drive in himself also, although in Alex’s case it had a significantly different career field to focus on, which I’ll tell you about in a moment. In order to attract Ken’s attention through these early years of his childhood, Alex found he had to become more and more creative in finding the right attention-seeking behavior to peak Ken’s interest just enough so as to turn his gaze in Alex’s direction.
Alex would spend endless hours reading about his father and his many outstanding achievements, first in newspapers and journals, and later on the internet. Alex would take the initiative at the dinner table, and ask Ken probing questions about his research, or about his political views. Ken would often be surprised by the accuracy of Alex’s observations, and he would then delight in engaging Alex in a deep conversation about the topic. This focused attention from his father would stir something deep inside Alex that felt so good, but which he couldn’t name; he just knew he wanted more if it.
Upon completion of high school, Alex already had his future career path clearly mapped out. Alex’s chosen future profession was to become a doctor, his final goal to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon. No one—either at Dalton, or at home in the Abercrombie penthouse—had any clue where Alex’s proposed career choice had sprung from, but whenever Alex himself was asked his reply was always the same: “I want to make people’s hearts better.” The cute smile that followed this statement could melt an iceberg, and complete strangers would “ooh” and “aah” as they fell in love with Alex and his noble life intentions.
The truth of the source of Alex’s desire to become a heart surgeon was in fact his viewing of a documentary covering the life of renowned American heart transplant surgeon, Dr Henry Grainger, when Alex was just six. In the documentary, Dr Grainger had been shown performing a heart transplant procedure in 1969—one of the first to be carried out successfully—and how the recipient’s family had idolized and adored Dr Grainger after it. It also showed the doctor receiving recognition and awards for his service to humankind. Seeing someone being so positively viewed and recognized by his patients and the world had spawned the seed of the idea for young Alex that he too could become a heart transplant surgeon, and be admired by the world for his work in that field.
Alex’s chosen school for his pre-med degree was Stanford University. He attained the required admission criteria without any difficulty, and took off for the west coast with great anticipation and enthusiasm. Upon arrival at Stanford, however, Alex was disappointed to discover that the university campus in Palo Alto was dull and sterile, and that it felt provincial and boring to Alex after his exciting upbringing in New Eden.
His initial disappointment with Stanford was quickly put aside as Alex enrolled in as many extra-curricular groups and classes as he could find: he became a member of the undergraduate chess club; he joined the Stanford University tennis team; he was excited to become a member of the Stanford Entrepreneurs Guild, which required not only a special entrance test and interview, but which also involved learning the secret SEG greeting and handshake. The moment Alex was sworn into the clandestine group, he felt a sort of power ignite inside of him that made him feel vibrantly alive, and which became his compass for all future career decisions. Becoming an entrepreneur, Alex realized through his association with SEG, actually sounded more interesting and fulfilling than being a surgeon, but Alex was quite sure that he could combine the two, and he decided that he would become the world’s first entrepreneurial cardio-thoracic surgeon.
It was in the summer of 2018, after his three years of pre-med at Stanford, that Alex returned to New Eden once more. He was more than happy to return to the life and energy of his home city, and even to move back into the Abercrombie family’s penthouse apartment on Central Park West, despite him now having well and truly transitioned into the independence of adulthood; Alex had turned 21 earlier in the year, and he knew he wouldn’t stay living with his family for long.
Alex had initially planned to undertake his medical school studies at either Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, or at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, but after his disappointment with Stanford, he decided to switch his focus back to New Eden, and he applied for the equally well-ranked medical school in his home town, the Grossman School of Medicine at New Eden University.
As with all of his other academic endeavors to date, Alex excelled at medical school. It was here that Alex’s lifetime of attentiveness to the energy and needs of the people around him came to the fore. In fact, it turned out that Alex appeared to have a sixth sense for picking up abnormalities and diseases in his patients, and Alex sailed through the first years at NEU with high distinction in all subjects.
It was on returning home to New Eden that Alex finally admitted to himself that he was sexually attracted to other men. Until this time Alex had simply pushed down these urges entirely as he was single-pointedly focused on succeeding in his chosen career, and sexual relationships were clearly a distraction from this. Alex’s announcement of his sexual orientation to Ken, Faye, and Eve over dinner one night was so matter-of-fact, it took a few moments for his words to sink in.
Eve already knew—and had known without doubt from a very young age—that Alex was gay. After Alex’s pronouncement Ken was silent, and didn't raise the topic with Alex for more than a year. Faye was bright and breezy about it, and pledged her undying support for the happiness of her ‘brave little man.’
The reasons behind Ken’s reserved response to Alex’s exposure of his homosexuality were complex. Ken’s chosen political party—the Partisan Party—was rigidly right-wing and conservative on most matters, including but not confined to abortion, immigration, and the rights of non-conforming minorities, including the LBGTIQA+ community. Though Ken was not entirely in agreement with the Partisans on all of these issues, in planning his trajectory to the White House he knew he needed to reside well within the defined parameters the Partisan Party at all times—or at least until he was firmly ensconced in the White House—and supporting the LGBTIQA+ community was not included in that.
The following year, as Ken began in earnest his campaign for the presidency in 2020, Ken finally sat down with Alex for a frank discussion about his sexual orientation. To Alex’s horror, his father demanded that Alex deny the rumours that were starting to circulate in the press about Ken Abercrombie’s son being gay; the media circus that is an integral part of the presidential race having already kicked into high gear.
“You want me to deny who I am to the press and to the world so that you can be the all-powerful leader of the western world?” Alex was incredulous; his mind whirling from the disbelief of what he was hearing.
“Well, not so much denying who you are as just hiding the truth a little bit. You know how the game is played, Alex: what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?”
Alex stared at his father in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me? I always sensed that you were morally bankrupt, but now I know it’s true. I’m disappointed in you, dad. If that’s the way it is, I no longer want to be a part of this family. This is it; I’m done.”
Alex continued staring into his father’s eyes for a few more seconds, saw there was no possibility that Ken would bend his stance on the matter to save his relationship with his son, then spun on his heel and proceeded to pack his things.
It wasn’t long before Alex had settled into a small studio apartment near the corner of Broadway and Bleecker Street in NoHo, and his adult life—one independent of his wealthy birth family—truly began.
A few weeks later, Alex was approached for an interview by a left-wing media publication, The Village Voice, and he delighted in coming clean about his sexuality and his estrangement from his family. The article gave rise to a bit of drama in the media for a few weeks, then the dust quickly settled, and it was soon forgotten. Alex, of course, would never forget this betrayal by his own flesh and blood, and some part of him looked forward to an opportunity in the future to repay the pain and suffering that Ken had dished out to him.
It was upon finding himself suddenly needing to make an income to survive in life that Alex returned to his childhood love of dancing. Alex had discovered that he was a naturally talented dancer back in his days at Dalton, and he’d taken classes both in and out of school through his teens. Alex now enrolled in dance classes at the Chelsea Pier Dance Studio, and brushed up his ballet, jazz, and tap-dancing skills in preparation for applying for a dancing position to pay his way through the remaining years of medical school.
It was in these dance classes at Chelsea Piers that Alex first met and became friends with Adam McCall. Alex’s initial attraction was definitely physical—by this time Alex had found his eye easily drawn to the well-defined muscular physique of other male dancers—but it quickly became clear Adam was straight, and so Alex settled for a casual friendship with both a sweet man and an excellent fellow dancer.
A few months more, and Alex felt he was ready to audition for paying dance roles. He had his eye on off-Broadway shows, whose scope and schedules wouldn’t interfere with his studies, but nothing appropriate immediately appeared. Then, in mid-2019, Adam informed Alex that he was starting work as a backup dancer at an East Village cabaret club, The Garden Cabaret, and suggested that Alex come along to the open auditions for the remainder of the cast that were happening later in the week.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Alex became one of my lovely dance crew, and an integral part of the Eldridge Street chamily. Mrs Chu, Bernard, William, and I, of course, were all mortified to hear Alex’s story of rejection by his father for being gay, and we rallied around him like a supportive shield. Alex’s stories from the inner sanctum of the Abercrombie household were also the nidus of the idea to make Ken Abercrombie and Abercrombie Industries the next target for E-VAG.
And so, Alex’s story now intersects with all the others at the all-important time: July 4th, 2020.
Alex is truly enjoying his new life free from his famous family’s influence, and with his new band of friends that he meets with regularly at The Garden Cabaret and Bernard’s Bookstore, he feels like the trajectory of his life has shifted just enough to be headed towards true happiness, rather than merely focusing on success as it had before this chance meeting.
Despite still having two more years to go to finish his medical degree, Alex finds himself deeply engaged in serving the public through the early months of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the city. Rather than being forced into lockdown, as a medical student Alex enlisted to be of assistance on the ground at NEU Langone Hospital Emergency Department. Alex contracted COVID in April of 2020, but was lucky enough to experience only minimal symptoms, not dissimilar to a bad cold, and within two weeks his body had cleared the virus and he was back to his usual busy routine.
Tonight Alex, along with the rest of the cast at The Garden Cabaret, have joined me for our grand opening, where the atmosphere is very festive, and Alex takes to the stage filled with joy and excitement . . .