I was a bed wetter. It was so bad that my parents refused to give me fluids after late afternoon. Sometimes I would get really thirsty and they’d flat out refuse to serve me, so I would sneak into the bathroom after everyone was asleep and steal drinks from the sink. To this day, water always seems to taste best out of my cupped hands. But, even on the nights when I went to bed thirsty, there was still a fair chance that I would wake up soaked. I felt pretty bad about the whole thing. My dad would sometimes get angry about it and say he was going to put a rubber band on my “Peter.” Thankfully, that idea never made it past the development stage and my penis remained rubber band free. Instead my parents invested in plastic sheets and underwear. Truth be told, the underwear probably about as comfortable than that rubber band would have been. They pinched my legs and stomach while irritating my skin and, if I did wet the bed, I essentially had a bag full of urine wrapped around my waist to deal with. They weren’t even really that effective at stopping leaks and I would gamble that the psychological shame they incurred probably was not worth it.
The whole situation made sleepovers a grim prospect. I remember being invited once and having to reassure my mother that I would be fine. I had gone nearly two months without incident and was feeling confident but the look in her eyes was that of pure terror. But she still agreed to take me. The house was the kind of place that made you feel a little bad about where you lived. It was new and it was big and it had an airplane hangar in the backyard with a small airplane in it. I hated how big it all was. There was so much wasted space. All the furniture was too far apart and it was easy to lose track of his family members. It just seemed too quiet and too cavernous to be lived in by actual people. He had a computer that talked to you and a few electronic toys that almost seemed too nice to even touch with. In fact, the only thing in the entire house that held my interest was his dog but he kept kicking it out of the room whenever I started playing with it. But even when it wasn’t around, and we were otherwise occupied, I still wondered what it might be doing in that big lonely house.
We ended up “shooting hoops” with some older kids that lived next door until after the sun went down. I had worked up quite a thirst playing all that basketball and probably had six glasses of Sprite. Jesus Christ, did I drink a lot of Sprite on that day. His mother set us up with sleeping bags so we could camp out together on the floor. The plan was to exchange stories and jokes but we immediately fell asleep. By sunup, everything in that sleeping bag had been pissed on. Even the chest of my shirt was wet; it was a full-blown nightmare scenario. Luckily, I had awoken first and had time to slip out of my pajamas, into my normal clothes and call my mom. The conversation went something like this:
“Hi. Can you come get me?”
“Is something wrong?”
“Uh… sort of.”
“Uh… sort of.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
However, claiming that I sort of wet the bed would be like saying the 9/11 was sort of a tragedy. I was trying to be nonchalant on the phone in case someone was listening in but the real damage had been done and I knew it. After hanging up, went into the bathroom and rinsed everything off, then I opened my duffel-bag and wrapped up my wet clothes with my dry ones from the day before. It felt like trying to conceal all evidence of a crime. By the time everyone had awoken, I was ready to go home. I made an excuse about not feeling well, thanked them for having me over, and promptly made my escape once my mom’s car came into view. As we drove away it was pretty clear that I was not going to be invited back to that particular residence anytime soon.
I spent the weekend watching television and drawing maps of what I thought the inside of a space station might look like. On Monday, he came up to me at school and asked about it. Kids have no tact and very little subtlety so the questioning went something like, “Did you pee when you spent the night?”
I, of course, denied everything. I acted like him even asking me about it was totally ridiculous. I made huffing noises and rolled my eyes. When he started to bring forth evidence and press the issue, I suggested that it was probably the dog. To this day I deeply regret having blamed the dog. If I could go back in time, I would assume full responsibility. My mind would not let me forget about that dog and I imagined a million different scenarios where they went home and spanked it or put it outside because they thought it had a bladder control problem. That dog was the shining beacon in an otherwise dreary and enormous house and I betrayed it so that I might save face. I still feel really guilty for having sold it down the river.
Eventually, as I approached pre-adolescence, the involuntary urination stopped completely but there were plenty of ruined sheets and couch cushions that had to be flipped over in the interim. Even after things dried up, I was still pretty apprehensive about spending the night anywhere. In fact, it was pretty rare that I would even bother going to another child’s house period. I may have been the only child in history that actively avoided birthday parties. The problem is that, until you’re about twelve, parents do the majority of the social planning in your life. You have a few real friends and then all of these other children who have parties that you are obligated to go to. My life contains countless examples of parties and play-dates that I wanted no part of, yet found myself participating in anyway.
The first set of twins that I knew were named Alex and Andrew. Even at the age of nine, I remember thinking that was an awful choice for any parent to make. They even had matching bowl cuts and similar styled shirts. Just knowing they existed gave me this sort of unpleasant uncanny feeling. I don’t know why parents like to trump up the fact that they have identical children, it’s already in your face enough without needing any extra help. But they were nice kids and were good enough to invite me to their birthday party. I tried desperately to get out of it but my parents insisted that I get out of the house. Usually, I could craft an expert excuse about the children that would get me out of it. Normally it had something to do with fighting or swearing. But the best I could come up with for Andrew and Alex was that I was not yet sure if I liked them or not. Again, they were good kids. My ruse didn’t work and my mother made it perfectly clear I had to go to their party. When we drove up, I remember having to go down a private drive. They too had the sort of house that made you feel weird about the one you lived in. Their backyard was the woods and their nearest neighbor was really far away.
After my mom left, I spent twenty-minutes socializing and then immediately started playing video games while ignoring everyone else. I probably never left that room. While they were running around, playing games and eating cake, I was beating all of their high scores. At one point their mom came in and asked me if I wanted to play with everyone and I said that I did not. I think they got sick of me being antisocial because my parents showed up early to take me home. The point is, I was great at video games and twins creeped me out. It bothered me how close they were and I did not see any reason to try and break into that. I liked them individually but the instant they were around each other, they became off-putting. They looked the same, they sounded the same and they even smelled the same. I remembered thinking about all of the grown-ups who said we are all beautiful and unique individuals. “Not if you’re a twin,” I thought.
Being a twin always seemed like it would be awful because it would only take a couple of years until you figured out which one was the bad one. After that, the family would subconsciously nurture the good twin while ignoring the other. This would go on for decades until the bad twin inevitably went insane and start plotting against the other. The concept of an “evil twin” is likely based firmly in this reality. If it were not, why would the idea even exist? Why else would people put them into movies specifically to make the moviegoer uneasy? This was my line of thinking as a child and as an adult it has been difficult to condition myself not to continue thinking this way. It is my one true prejudice and it took years for me to overcome.
But, to get off that tangent and back on topic, I know that it is likely just a matter of time before I am wetting the bed again. Some night, decades from now, I will wake up to use the toilet only to find out that it was all a bladder confusing dream and that will be that. Thinking about it as an adult, it doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal though. In my childhood, bed wetting was an all consuming fear—but, today, I would probably piss myself almost every night if it guaranteed the rest of my problems could be more easily sorted out. Things like having enough money to live on, creating meaningful friendships, achieving any sense of fulfillment or just finding someone that will continue to love you are all much scarier problems to overcome. And, of course, we all have them. Then again, maybe I’ll feel differently about it when it actually happens. Life is usually like that.