Discover more from THE DAHMER DIARIES
SNEAK PREVIEW 2
The Third Element
A second look at my novel I Love You Jeffrey Dahmer.
David meets Steven, the new guy in town, on a windy afternoon in downtown Milwaukee.
A Different Corner
LEFT FOR LUNCH AROUND 12:07
Outside the library, a January storm dominated downtown—pushing debris up and down the street. I walked a long way up National through the shove and suck of the wind.
On the corner of 71st, a small work crew was jackhammering the sidewalk like crazy. I picked up my pace to avoid the racket and crossed the street with my head down.
Two teen boys ran past me wearing flip-flops, tank tops, and basketball shorts. Crazy kids out in the cold. I ducked into the small alcove of a bar and fished inside my coat for a cigarette.
A hand came towards me holding a lighter. And then the rest of his body nudged in beside me.
A patron popped open the door to exit the bar and released the jangly guitar from Ventura Highway. The lyric about alligator lizards—my favorite part of the song—made me happy. As a kid, my dad and I shouted that line together when he drove me to school on his day off.
I leaned into the shape next to me to allow the bar guy to pass—this involved turning and flattening myself into an awkward angle. I started to shake my head and laugh. Despite the wind, I managed to light my smoke.
Sure. Rough weather, he said, and then, what’s your name?
He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and worked his lighter with skill—besting the wind.
His sandy hair reminded me of a comet’s tail. The way the wind had shifted it back, freed from what I imagined was deliberate arranging and maybe some guy hairspray, the sort of stuff more guys were using. He reminded me of other artistic boys I knew.
He was looking at the sky above National, and with the fingers that held his smoke, he pointed towards a shock of blackbirds surfing in tandem with the wind.
Oh fuck, he said.
And we watched as one of the birds in the flock fell like a paperweight to the sidewalk. A blond woman wearing a black coat and red scarf stepped right over the creature. She kept moving. Wow.
And then Steven said, damn, I think that’s a bad omen.
I stopped staring at the dead bird and turned to study his profile—his lips and impish nose.
How do you mean? I asked.
Well, if you see a bird crash into something—isn’t that, like, bad luck? Like someone is going to get sick—or—
I said, shit, I dunno. But for sure, that bird’s luck had run out.
He spoke seriously—more to himself than to me, he said: my gran back in Marquette told me that. She knows a lot of bird stories.
Hmmm, I considered. He’s a Yooper—Michigan.
I asked him, is that where you’re from? Marquette?
Another bar person opened the door and attempted to nudge past us. I said sorry, it’s a tight fit out here—I think we need some lube.
The guy squeezing past ignored me and pulled the collar of his coat closer to his throat. He stopped for a moment on the sidewalk to turn around and steal a look at Steven. I stamped out my smoke.
I started to wonder about Steven too. And with his body so close (his elbow kept brushing against my arm), I felt compelled to know him.
I imagined him naked and stretched out on my bed. He was leaning back onto his elbows with his legs spread—
Steven hopped over to the wall opposite me. And I bet I was blushing. But then all he said was—and this shocked me:
Well, that’d be a fun evening.
We both laughed. Later, back at work, I replayed this moment for the rest of the day.
He told me he was working shifts as a cook at George Webb’s restaurant, just behind the Milwaukee Athletic Club, and suggested we get together for a beer sometime during the weekend.
I said OK, and do you have a phone number?
He said no. He was down from Ontonagon to check things out. Maybe he’d attend college in Milwaukee. He wasn’t sure.
Just come by Saturday after I’m off, and we’ll play it by ear.
I said great. I’ll be there.
We stood across from each other and waited for whatever came next. He hugged himself, rubbing his hands up and down against his arms.
Damn, it’s cold.
I laughed and said, there’s no such thing as cold where we live—there’s only underdressed.
A sudden gust blew dead leaves in circles at our feet. And then he said, I’ll see ya, and darted out of the alcove.
His absence felt like the wind had sucked him back into an indeterminate world.
Two Tickets to Paradise—music from the jukebox—leaked through the bar’s threshold. And I realized I’d lost half of my lunch hour—but it was OK. Steven was handsome and interesting.
Until next time,