Last night I went to see About Face's production of Jim Grimsley's new play, Fascination, about a Chicagoserial killer who murders more than 40 young men he picks up in gay bars around the city. Before you run off wondering if I've slipped into my Windy City Times persona as a theater critic, stay a minute. You're in the right place.
See, Fascination got me to thinking (and I bet scores of other gay men in the audience) about how easy it would be to disappear under the charming wiles of a serial killer, like Dahmer. We've all done it (OK, there's never an all, but most): gone home with a stranger we just met in a bar, or perhaps hooked up with someone we met on a phone sex line (even though that route is becoming more and more archaic), or, most likely, hooked up with a stranger online.
We've all taken our lives in our hands in the pursuit of getting some cock in our hands (or elsewhere). The great thing about Fascination is how the killer talks about how all of his victims were 'surprised' when death came to them in the form of a handsome murderer. But the fact is, he continues, that people are getting murdered all the time. And we are almost always 'surprised' when it happens to us.
In the heat of passion, when we walk down Halsted Street with a trick we just met a half hour ago, or when we wait eagerly in our apartment for the buzzer to sound, signaling the guy we spoke to for five minutes on the phone has arrived, or when we make our way out of a chat room and into the home of a stranger, we never really think that our love connection could also be a death connection. Do we? Of course not, that's how Dahmer killed so many, how Gacy did, how Dean Corll did. Among the slippery anonymous connections we gay men are so adept at, murder is easy.
It's a scary thought. It's also scary to think how little trace we'd leave behind that would lead someone to our killer, whether the trail was electronic, telephonic, or physical. Do we really notice who left with whom at Cell Block? Unlikely. How would someone know whom you invited over from a phone sex line? Pretty near impossible. And how much of an electronic footprint is left behind when we hook up with someone via m4m4sex.com?
Should we stop? Should we be more careful about who we hook up with and get to know them a little before we end up in their bed knowing less than we know about that coworker three cubes over? I don't know. Honestly, the truth is being murdered by a serial killer is pretty rare. Should you avoid starting the engine of your car because you might die in a car crash?
Yeah, we should be more careful about whom we go home with or invite into our homes, but at the same time, I wonder: where's the fun in that? Maybe it's just enough to know that someone else's idea of fun might be way different than yours. Just be careful who you pick up in a bar … you could wind up getting literally hammered.