David Bain was a doctor, a world class physician. Just not by traditional standards. He had no degree, no formal training, no office with loud paper sheets, stethoscopes and tongue depressors and no tubs of biohazard sharps. But when he corrected the mistaken masses with a forceful “Doctor Bain, that’s Doctor Bain,” I found it hard to remember he was only eleven. When he told me to pee in a cup one Saturday in his garage, I couldn’t see the harm in it—better to catch problems before you notice them, as he said. When his mother walked in to find me topping off the cup, she grabbed my arm, threw me in the car and rushed me home. But I always peed in cups at the doctor’s, I thought. You do it in the bathroom, then put it behind a wonderland-sized door where it disappears. At David’s, my pee spilled and dried on the floor, its mysteries lost in the heat of the garage.
David reserved his best secrets just for me. Soon after we met, he pulled me into a corner where his pale skin was almost glow-in-the-dark. He claimed his older brother owned a house. Normal on the outside, but under the living room rug was a manhole and under that, a passage into a fort. Forts for me had gotten old in recent years. But this fort was underground, made out of cement and American steel—not pillows or the slouching trees in my backyard. This fort had a periscope and mini-fridge. This fort had a library of every single Playboy magazine ever published. The following week, I tried to show David the three worn issues that my father kept hidden under old tax paperwork, but David jumped back and said he had seen those issues too many times. Then he groaned about feeling sick and phoned his mother for a ride home.
As if being an eleven year old doctor wasn’t enough, David was also an inventor. He showed me his mind control flashlight, disguised from the government as a conventional Maglite. He told me that by wiring two bike helmets together, we could keep on playing into the night in one mutual dream. When I told him my dream after a sleepover, with wide eyes, he said he had had the same one. But he would never let me near his most prized work, a pair of x-ray glasses that could see through clothing. I would have filled a thousand cups with pee for even an x-ray glimpse at our budding classmates. I tried to mimic his design, wiring the back of my sunglasses to a battery wrapped in tin foil, but they didn’t work. I begged him to let me have just a peek through Madeline Parker’s tank top and Lucky flares. He refused but said he would describe it so I could draw her. So one lunch he sat with his glasses, whispering details as I etched in colored pencils my best guess of the female form. The finished product is still somewhere deep in my desk.
Before he turned twelve, his family moved. We did not keep in touch. Years later, I found out that he was attending Wesleyan University with a number of my friends. I asked them whether he was doing pre-med, what his most recent invention was, how strange he must be. But they tried to assure me, “Dave’s a normal guy. A history major.” I changed the subject quickly. I’m sure they did not know the same boy I grew up with. Dr. David Bain, who made me pee in a cup.