When I began freshman year, I felt nervous about my roommate just like everyone else. What if she was a nut who used my toothbrush or peed on me in my sleep? What if she partied harder than Charlie Sheen? Truthfully, she did none of these things. She turned out to be one of the greatest people I met my freshman year. The only problem? She became a different person when she fell asleep.
Like many freshmen, I opted to go random. We talked over social media before we actually met and had almost everything in common. Both of us were bilingual and had lived outside of the U.S. Our similar interests like Harry Potter, animals and dance only brought us closer together. Plus, she was the first person to ever share my ridiculous obsession with peanut butter. Needless to say, we became fast friends. I honestly thought I had been paired with the perfect roommate.
When the time came to fill out our roommate contract, the RA looked floored. We pinned down everything perfectly. We got up early, shared similar studying habits and divided the chores evenly. Our first day together we went to the dining hall and laughed our butts off while trying to sneak oranges into our purses. I went to bed that night feeling completely relieved. Not only did I have a wonderful roommate but a wonderful friend as well.
But something happened overnight—I woke up to someone talking in our room. I totally freaked out. Had someone broken in our room? I frantically searched for signs of invasion. When I finally became a rational human being again, I decided it had to be our suitemates. Going back to sleep wasn’t easy. When we woke up, she asked if I heard anyone talking the night before. The fact that she also noticed reassured me, and we agreed that our neighbors were loud people. But the next night I woke up again with my suspicions confirmed: My roommate was talking in her sleep—and in Portuguese, too.
The next morning, I mentioned it to her and she laughed nervously. She thought that living away from home was probably making her stressed. I didn’t give it that much weight and we continued to adventure together during the day. We talked about getting a chinchilla for our dorm and laughed about the unusual kids on our floor, like the kid who faked a British accent around our RA. “I’ve heard so many horror stories already, I’m so glad you’re a chill roommate,” she said to me on day three. I tried to smile, but the night before she talked in her sleep and sat up like the girl from The Exorcist.
Things fell apart quickly. She would get up in the middle of the night and talk to me in mumbled Portuguese that I couldn’t help comparing to Latin. Isn’t that the language used to exorcise demons? Sometimes she stumbled to the closet and turned the lights on and off. Other times she rummaged through the drawers under our beds sounding like a rat. In an unfortunate turn of events, she actually picked up her laptop and threw it on the ground. She never remembered it in the morning and tried to laugh when I would tell her about her sleepwalking adventures, but I woke up every night and sleeping soon became impossible.
It took me awhile to work up the courage to tell her how difficult my nights had become. I feared hurting our friendship since school had just started. I tried headphones and earplugs, but neither of them worked. I looked for excuses to stay in my friends’ dorms and went home every weekend for a good night’s sleep.
Finally, in the middle of fall, I cracked and told her that her sleepwalking got really bad (and creepy too). She admitted it had been an issue during her childhood and her mom once found her trying to leave the house. That only added to my panic every night because I worried she would start wandering the dorm floor.
I started sleeping off campus in a friend’s apartment every night. I stopped showing my face around our floor and my RA became concerned. When he asked to meet with me, I couldn’t help but cry. What could I do? My perfect daytime roommate turned into my worst enemy at night. When I didn’t get sleep my health seriously suffered. In high school, I even ended up in the hospital due to a sleep disorder, and I worried that my problems would return if I kept staying in a room that made me incredibly anxious. Ultimately we decided that I needed to switch dorms.
Friends and family supported my decision. When the housing department released me from my contract, I felt exhausted but relieved. I could finally sleep, but my choice upset my roommate. By the time I packed up to leave, we barely spoke. Perhaps she felt bitter that I was leaving or maybe she just didn’t want to lose me. She watched in tense silence as I struggled to drag the only mini-fridge out of the room. I sincerely thought about leaving things behind instead of risking confrontation by asking her where they were.
Finally, the dorm looked half deserted and the silence broke. In the end we hugged goodbye and she told me I could always come to her if I needed anything. The truth was that our friendship couldn’t survive the disaster of those sleepless nights. And I ended up really missing her the rest of the year—but I would have missed sleep a lot more.