Second Date
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“Okay, listen,” says Kondraki from inside the bathroom door, “I just want you to understand that this is not my proudest moment.”

It’s hemorrhoids, thinks Alto Clef from where he’s standing outside the bathroom door in Benjamin Kondraki’s apartment, I’m calling it right fucking now, he cancelled our date because of hemorrhoids. It’s going to be a wasteland in there. Just fucking decimated. Like the scene in psycho with the blood bath.

“Completely understandable,” says Clef.

“I don’t- this doesn’t happen to me regularly,” says Kondraki. “Like seriously, if I thought I could drive like this I would, but it kind of hits a certain point where your body’s structural integrity is kind of negligible, you know?”

He’s going to have ass stitches, thinks Alto Clef. He seems like the kind of guy who would be constipated to the point of ass stitches.

“Of course,” says Clef.

“Don’t laugh,” says Kondraki after a long, thoughtful pause.

I bet he’s just constipated, thinks Clef. Like, he’s been holding in one massive shit for the entire time he’s been director and it’s time to give birth to that stress-based monstrosity.

“I won’t laugh,” says Clef.

“We’ve been friends for, what, twenty years? Thirty?” says Kondraki. “I met you in ‘89. You watched me raise my son and everything, even, like, you know, I trust you, and you know, as we discussed recently I do have feelings for you, but it really is kind of a delicate situation here.”

“Konny,” says Clef, “I’ve seen you half dead three whole separate times. No state I can possibly see you in at this point will surprise me, okay?”

“So to reiterate the plan here,” continues Kondraki seamlessly, nervously brushing over Clef’s response, “You don’t have to look at it. Seriously. Just. Drive me to the infirmary, and if we can get there without anyone seeing us I’ll consider it a victory. And we’re not telling Draven about this, either.”

“Okay, yeah. Understandable. Do you need help like- god, I don’t know- getting up?”

“Maybe a little.”


“The door is unlocked.”


“Really, I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“No one ever does.”


“Okay, I’m coming in.”

The Kondraki household is an apartment situated a short walking distance from site. It’s an overall happy and comfortable living space adorned with books, manuscripts, and scratches on the walls. There’s a bedroom for Kondraki and a now-empty bedroom where his son grew up; there’s a kitchen and a living room, an office, and a currently occupied bathroom. Clef has been here many times over the years, and has been here more often since the onset of Kondraki’s surprisingly potent empty nest syndrome several years back, beginning with Draven’s moving out and into the task force barracks for training and onward. He’d gauged easily, when they’d met up again for the first time after several years of working on separate sites, that he was feeling lonely- a destroyed marriage now a little over twenty years in the past, kid out of the house, moving through middle age in a strange and alien stupor. Clef himself was more acquainted to living on his own, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t prone to underfulfillment himself. They’d been close for years. This elevation of their relationship from strictly friends to testing the waters of a potential partnership was a very recent one, but not one that was necessarily unwelcome at all. There was an element of trust that wasn’t there before; an element of strange security and even something like affection, admiration, love.

But Kondraki was lonely. Clef, being asexual himself, admittedly may have underestimated this element in his newfound partner. He wasn’t quite sure why he didn’t consider it- Kondraki had been notorious for his sexcapades in his grad student years, before the Foundation and a child had tied him down- but Clef had really just assumed that he had it, for the most part, under control, and had therefore ignored his partner’s impulsivity and stupidity when it came to mundane decision making skills. It was impressive he had been able to keep himself alive, and a downright miracle that he’d been able to successfully raise a child. Kondraki was brilliant- they wouldn’t have made him a director if they hadn’t been sure of his capability, his grasp of spontaneity, his mental agility under pressure- and this is what he thinks about in defense of Kondraki when he reflects on the next thirty seconds of events unfolding at the Kondraki household, which are recorded as follows:

Clef opens the door. He sees Ben there, pantless, which he expected. He sees him also without underwear, which he didn’t quite expect but wasn’t out of the question. Ben isn’t making eye contact, and Clef opens his mouth to say something along the lines of do you need help pushing or some equally snarky response when he sees a plastic cylinder between his legs and it dawns on him that Kondraki is a fifty-five year old Foundation administrator with a water bottle stuck on his penis, and he feels that thought curl up and die in his mind more quickly than anything he has ever experienced in his life. He feels his brain short circuit, then leans forward from the door to make sure that he’s seeing it right, and he is. It’s stuck. That’s the problem here. His dick is stuck in an Aquafina brand water bottle. The bottom of the bottle is rested on the toilet seat like a display case for an unfurled flag of surrender.

“So you’re probably wondering how I ended up like this,” says Kondraki. “And I just want you to understand that the main problem here is really the aerodynamics of the thing. I kind of underestimated, like, when I was starting out here a couple hours ago-”

Clef leaves the bathroom. He leaves the apartment, actually, and stands in the hallway. He has surpassed laughter into tears. He takes out his cell phone and dials.

“Draven,” he says, “Kiddo, you’re not gonna fucking believe this.”

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