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Hot Mess

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Adam is a hot mess by the time he’s biked to the laundromat. His shirt doesn’t have a single inch of dry fabric, all of it soaked through by sweat. He locks his bike out front and plucks at his shirt self-consciously. His laundry—all of his clothes except the ones he’s currently wearing—is shoved in a large canvas bag he bought at the thrift store. His cleaner clothes are at the top of the bag and his grimy shop clothes are shoved to the bottom. Adam’s got laundry day down to a science, knowing exactly how much he can stuff into a single load, how much detergent will be required, how many quarters it will take to wash and dry two loads.

The laundromat is almost empty, something else that Adam has planned out; Wednesday nights are the best time to do laundry because half the town is at church and the other half is too busy not being in church to swing by the laundromat. As Adam shoves the door open he notices the only other person inside is a guy who looks to be about his age but that’s all they have in common.

The guy is sitting on top of one of the washers, his head tipped back against the wall, expensive headphones sealed over his ears. He’s totally still, except for his feet, which are braced on the wall of dryers across from him. His heavy black boots tap along to whatever he’s listening to. He’s about the most visually interesting guy Adam’s ever seen in Henrietta and he looks like danger personified: shaved scalp, tattoo ink visible from where his cutaway black wife beater hangs open at the sides. He’s kind of scrawny but not weak looking.

Adam eyes him warily before setting down his bag and pulling the bottom of his shirt up to wipe the sweat off his face; it barely makes a difference. When he looks up the guy is staring at him, well, staring at his stomach. Adam feels the back of his neck heat. He knows that his toned body looks nice but it’s still a surprise to catch people looking, especially when the person in question looks like every bad decision he would make if he ever went to any of the parties his roommates keep inviting him to.

In clear violation of social norms the other guy doesn’t look away and Adam feels his blush creeping to his ears. He picks up his bag and walks forward, pretending not to notice, trying to focus on finding an available washer. The first three are taken, two of them are still running while the third has stopped but the clothes have been left inside. The guy sits on the fourth washer, staring at Adam. It feels like intimidation and Adam bristles. He can see that the fifth washer is available and he waits for the guy to put his legs down so he can get by. Adam makes eye contact and the guy just smirks at him.

“Hey man,” Adam says, his voice cold but civil, “can you move your legs?”

The guy pulls his headphones down around his neck. Adam can hear loud electronica, like what his roommate Chris constantly listens to.

“You gotta pay the toll first,” the guy says. His voice is low, a seductive snarl that makes Adam’s chest feel warm.

“What?” Adam can’t believe this guy. A toll?

The guy cocks his head and gives Adam another appraising look, like he’s trying to decide what he should charge, what Adam can afford. It’s obvious that this guy has money: Beats headphones, Doc Martens, fancy jeans that look beyond distressed, the back piece alone would have cost more than Adam makes in a month working his summer job.

“Your name.” It isn’t a question.

Adam stares back, the heat spreading to his throat. Anger wars with attraction but it’s his pride that wins.

“Fuck you,” Adam shoots back. He puts every ounce of meanness into his voice.

“That’s a hell of a name,” the guy replies, grinning. It makes him look even more handsome. “Your parents must really hate you.”

“Oh, they do,” Adam answers. “You gonna move?”


It’s that damn smile that pushes Adam over the edge. He hates bastards who think they can do what they want because they’re good looking, because they have money. Adam doesn’t think twice before he knocks the guy’s boots down. They thud against the washer, hollow and loud in the empty laundromat.

The guy laughs and kicks his heels against the washer in rhythm to the beat of his music. He smiles as Adam squeezes by and starts loading his clothes in the washer.

They don’t speak but Adam can feel the other guy’s eyes on him and it makes him feel flustered. His hands shake a little as he feeds quarters in the machine and he drops one. It rolls behind the washer and Adam knows, even as he gets down on his knees to look, that he’s never getting it back. In the narrow space between the machines he sees nothing but dust bunnies. He wants to smack the washer in frustration; it shouldn’t matter but he had brought exactly the correct amount for two loads, washed and dried. He’ll have to forego drying the second load.

Before he can climb to his feet Adam feels something cold touch the side of his neck, by his ear. That smoky, raspy voice says, “I think you dropped this.”

Adam looks up and finds the other guy leaning towards him, holding a quarter between his thumb and index finger like he just pulled it from Adam’s ear. He’s still grinning like he’s been told a dirty joke, but something about his vibe has softened, enough that Adam doesn’t immediately smack his hand away.

Adam palms the quarter, noticing the silvery scars on the guy’s forearms, an out of character detail that nags at him.

“Thanks,” Adam says, adding the quarter to the total in the washer. He selects the wash cycle, load size, and temperature and presses the start button. The washer surges to life and Adam settles against it feeling more tired than he should.

The guy kicks the toe of his boot against Adam’s thigh, demanding his attention. Adam sighs and turns to him, already regretting accepting the quarter.

“So,” the guy asks, “you come here often?”

Adam snorts a laugh. “Really dude? You’re trying to pick me up at the laundromat?”

The guy continues to stare. It’s unnerving.

“Why not?” he asks. “My name is Ronan, by the way.”

“I don’t remember asking.” Adam’s pleased by the harsh frown the guy—Ronan—gives him. “I’m going to go do my homework. Have a nice life.”

Ronan gives a surprised or affronted huff but doesn’t bother Adam as he settles into one of the cracked plastic chairs near the entrance. Adam pulls his textbook out of his battered backpack and starts reading over the week’s assignment. Taking online summer courses seemed like a good use of his time when he signed up for them at the beginning of May but now he’s regretting it.

Adam shifts in his seat, trying to get comfortable. His sweaty shirt is cold against his skin and the seat is murder on his spine. He leans forward, the large textbook open on his knees. From time to time he steals glances at Ronan. The other guy has gone back to listening to his music. He looks better when he’s not being an asshole. Adam finds himself staring too long, thinking too much about Ronan coming onto him. Ronan looks over and catches Adam in the act and Adam flushes before ducking his head and going back to his book. When he looks again Ronan’s eyes are closed but he’s smirking.

After about thirty minutes Adam’s first load is done and he gets up and puts it in the dryer and starts his second load. Ronan intentionally ignores him and Adam tries to not let it bother him. After all, he shut the guy down, what was he expecting? While he’s pulling the last of his dirty clothes from the bag Ronan’s dryer buzzes, the cycle finished.

Ronan hops down and grabs a mesh bag that unfolds neatly. Ronan hip checks Adam as he moves to open the dryer. Adam grits his teeth but before he can come up with a scathing comment he sees what Ronan’s pulling out of the dryer: handful after handful of vibrant, neon-colored briefs. Adam’s mouth goes dry. The brand name, printed on the wide, elastic waistband reads Kalvin Clein but that’s not right. Adam’s never owned Calvin Klein anything but he knows how it’s spelled. The briefs don’t look like cheap knock-offs, though. In fact they look obscenely luxurious.

Ronan leans further into the dryer, digging around for the last of his briefs. Adam doesn’t mean to ogle him but he does, and he sees that custom brand peeking above the top of Ronan’s low-slung jeans, catches a flash of brilliant fuchsia fabric before Ronan pulls out of the dryer, a pair of lime green briefs twirling from his index finger.

Ronan winks at Adam and tosses the last pair on the veritable mountain of undergarments.

“See you later, Fuck You,” Ronan calls over his shoulder as he walks out of the laundromat. Adam watches as Ronan climbs into a sexy BMW and smoothly whips out of the parking lot.

Later that night, when Adam strips out of his clothes to take a much-needed shower, a scrap of paper falls out of the pocket of his jeans. Adam stoops down and picks it up. Scrawled on the back of an ad for a psychic hotline is a number and a name: Ronan Lynch. Despite himself, Adam grins and tucks the number in his textbook.