UNITED STATES—Looking across a sea of white-enamel washers in the laundromat, Brendan watch the receding back of Radcovich. Brendan felt a pang at his candor in telling Radcovich about his marriage in Denmark. To his boyfriend. Why did he have to go and say that? But it was essential and true; of course he had to say it.

Radcovich took a final step out the door and glanced back over his shoulder. The disapproving look that Brenda took as rejection, masked a lightning reflection in Radcovich: in the debauchery of that Halloween party many full moons ago Radcovich, juiced on vodka, had glanced at Brendan and suppressed an urge to kiss him.

Afterward he had congratulated himself for control that he knew to be utterly fictitious. Given the inhibitions eroded by alcohol, it could have gone one way or other with the slightest shift in the breeze and entered into a new matrix of possibilities and risks. He congratulated himself: avoiding exposure had preserved the intimacy and friendship between Brendan and him. The kiss surely would have shut the door on any future acquaintance whatsoever, Radcovich felt.

The father of three and happily married man was not a thinking person, but he would have articulated the moment thus, were he able, as this bewildering moment at discovering that Brendan was not the person he had always believed him to be. Now he was overwhelmed by scandalous regret. What could have been, really could have been–he felt with dismay and wonderment.

The clothes in the dryer were still and cold. They were way past taking out still warm, and folding on the folding counter with its mirrors, to come out wrinkled free. Brendan noted that it was suddenly dark out. It got dark out so soon now. The cleaning lady had trundled out with her cart of laundry.

“I come here to wash my clothes every week now,” said Radcovich. “I’m separated from Diedre. Things aren’t quite as rosy as I painted.”

Brendan stood there, taking it all in. It was his turn to be surprised. He put his hands in his jean pockets and turned his pale face side to side. Radcovich turned and said, “I wish you luck, dude,” and headed to the sooty aluminum frame of the laundromat door.

Then Radcovich abruptly re-entered through the door, laughing.

“I forgot my laundry bag.” He dutifully reached down and hoisted it over his shoulder.

Midway across the laundromat again. He drew unbearably close to Brendan, who felt invaded and yet dizzy. There were his eyes so close Brendan could see on the orbs himself reflected in those green eyes. It would have been, should have been such a disarming comeback to say, “I thought you were married,” and Brendan berated himself for not having thought of: “Go home, loverboy, think of me when you are with Diedre.” But instead he said calmly, coolly, “I am not ready yet. I need some time.”

He berated himself for not honing in on the obvious, and leaving open just a tiny crack of openness. Who was fooling who? He wasn’t ready yet, he never would be.

Brendan pushed Radcovich gently away, firmly but gently. There was such a fine invisible line between love offered and harassment. Why hadn’t Radcovich asked for his phone number? Instead he walked docilely out the door, lugging the heavy bag of clean laundry. After all this, Brendan still got the dirty thrill he was seeking: he could look down on Radcovich now for being an immoral hypocrite. But still it hurt. All the yearning for the yearning for love and companionship, and then when it’s offered we push it away.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)