UNITED STATES—Eric Radcovich fit in, and Brendan didn’t. That was how it was in college. Eric was into fitness and brought to the apartment a device that imprisoned your ankles and then you could hang upside down and develop a six-pack. Eric owned heat. That was how he came from the other apartment to live where Brendan had been living. The roommates in the other apartment found a Luger in the bottom of Eric’s suitcase; they wanted him out.

Before that, Brendan had lived alone for a few weeks. It suited him, but now he welcomed the challenge of finding out if he was man enough to live with someone who owned heat.

Radcovich was in the business school; Brendan was in Arts and Letters. Radcovich was very tall as business majors tended to be: Brendan wondered how it would feel to be that tall. Radcovich had a steady girlfriend, Diedre. She seemed a bit plain for him. Radcovich talked about another girl who was a virgin who wanted him to be the first. He talked about that. He talked about everything.

Now that Brendan and Radcovich had met up in the laundromat after 20-plus years, Brendan asked, “Do you remember Diedre?”

Brendan looked surprised when he heard Ratcovich respond, “We’re married.”

Radcovich went on, “We have three kids, two girls and one boy. Our oldest is in college. The boy is All-American, already looking at colleges. You seem to look surprised,” Radcovich said.

“I am surprised,” Brendan said. “Diedre seemed kind of tame for a guy like you.”

Radcovich turned serious.

“You know I haven’t done drugs for years,” he said defensively. “Fifteen years, eleven months and three days, to be exact.”

Radcovich pulled out his phone and showed pictures of the family. One girl, the youngest, still looked awkwardly away from the camera. The other was smiling on a trip in Paris, you could see the Eiffel Tower over her shoulder. She stood by Diedre, who looked largely the same. The chesnut shade of hair attested to chemicals and/or good genes. Fresh and beautiful mother and daughter looked like two sisters. Likewise, Radcovich looked good and took care of himself. The fringes of gray and some smile lines of the eyes were the only witness of time’s passage. He looked like one of these young-old actors who are recruited by big pharmaceutical companies who to evoke the bliss their magical pills induce. Radcovich really looked the same, just so serious.

Brendan did his best to suppress a yawn after a table shot flashed on the phone. It must have been a Thanksgiving; a half consumed bird was on the table and everyone looked stoned.

“I’m doing well,” Brendan answered Radcovich’s question. “The poetry thing actually worked out in a weird way. I made a ton of money doing medical writing and consulting with pharmaceutical companies naming drugs.”

“Wow,” said Radcovich. “What were some of your names? Did you name Xanax?”

“I loved the actual creative part–naming names. Then there were the focus groups, the endless surveys–that got a bit tedious. But that’s why I get paid the big bucks. That, and I invested heavily in tech after the dotcom bubble burst.”

“I’m kind of surprised you got married,” Radcovich said.

“… And divorced, or actually separated. Why do people always say divorced when they’re really only separated?”

“Looking for sympathy,” Radcovich offered.

There were some good times,” Brendan said, casting a weary glance at the dryer window: the clothes were now still, they’d be cold soon. “We got married in Denmark before it was legal here. Our divorce was finalized last spring.”

A coldness entered Radcovich’s eyes. Brendan felt pushed away, momentarily. Then he took out his telephone and started subjecting Radcovich to the wedding pictures: two men with white tuxedos, a cloudy day over Europe.

“Well, it’s been nice to catch up,” Radcovich said. “Really nice.” Brendan was sure he would be free now to fold the dried laundry. To return to TV headlines and perchance come up a freshly unfolding scandal to help him forget his troubles.

To be continued..