I lived in an aging dorm my freshman year of college. It was twelve stories tall, and I lived on the 11th floor, which had a large balcony that was closed off forever since some unfortunate student had flung himself over the edge a decade before. But a service door had been accidentally left open, so we would regularly go up to the roof, which had no barriers whatsoever, and was nothing but a slick sheet of ice come winter. I almost slid off that roof a handful of times, but always managed to stop myself just inches before tumbling off the side of the building.
Anyway, there was a girl on my floor who I’ll call “Rebecca.” Rebecca was something of an odd duck. A recent transfer from another school, she was actually in her sophomore year, and wore fluorescent track pants every single day. She was a nice girl, though I was unnerved to discover that she watched Silence of the Lambs each night before going to bed. She said the movie soothed her, and she liked falling asleep to the sounds of Hannibal Lecter whispering, “Clariiiiice…”
I enjoyed making her uncomfortable by refusing to leave the communal bathroom whenever she had to poop. She couldn’t stand to go when there was anyone else in there, so I’d just sit there and try and wait her out. This resulted in her suffering from regular constipation.
I’m kind of an asshole.
Anyway, since I went to the opposite of a party school, a rousing evening in our dorm would involve the board game Taboo. If you’ve never played, it’s a word guessing game played between two teams. According to Wikipedia, “The object of the game is for a player to have his/her partner(s) guess the word on his/her card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card.” So if you had the word “Santa Claus” on your card, you’d have to get your team to guess the word without using words like “reindeer,” “presents,” “Christmas,” “sled,” etc.
But whenever Rebecca played this game with us, the night would take a turn for the depressing. No matter what the word, her description of it would always hearken back to the Holocaust. Her explanation of “Santa Claus” would probably go something like, “This mythical figure is a symbol of a holiday that the Jews killed during the Holocaust never celebrated.”
The word “Volkswagen” would be, “A vehicle made by the Nazis during the Holocaust.” “Oven” might be, “The Jews were cooked in these.” The lighthearted game would always instantly turn incredibly dark and uncomfortable. And yet we pressed on, not wanting to ban Rebecca from our floor activities, but terribly depressed all the same.
She later yelled at me for driving a Volkswagen Beetle, noting that it had been built on the shoulders of Jewish slaves. Because of the game of Taboo and Rebecca, I now saw reflections of the Holocaust in all manner of everyday objects. This is apparently how she lived her entire life, shrouded in a tragedy a generation and ocean away. Perhaps this is why she found solace in Silence of the Lambs? Maybe to her, it seemed positively upbeat compared to Schindler’s List.
When I was young, I attributed human qualities to nearly all inanimate objects. My childhood baby blanket had feelings, as did all my stuffed animals. I felt bad about putting hot things on counters, thinking that the surface must get very annoyed. My entire world was animistic, and I spent a good portion of each day trying to appease all these different objects.
Though there were several demanding items in our house, the harshest mistress was the heating system. We lived in a house with an old-fashioned water heater system, and each room along the route was warmed by hot water passing through a narrow pipe along the baseboard. My and my sister’s rooms were at the very end of a long and torturous route, so the water was usually no more than lukewarm by the time it got to us. As a result, I was freezing all winter without a space heater.
However, despite the chilly water passing through our pipes, the heaters still made an ungodly racket each and every night. Bubbles caught in the the pipe would burst and crack, and with the metal chamber around the pipe, the noise echoed until it sounded like angry gnomes were kicking the wall hundreds of times per night. I was a light sleeper, and all these knocks and bangs would keep me up most of the night.
I didn’t know the mechanism of the sounds, so I figured the heater was keeping me awake in order to punish me. “What do I need to do?” I’d whisper. “How can I make you stop?” After a week or so of sleepless nights, I would get desperate and start talking to the heaters.
I’d kneel down on the floor in my pajamas, and tap on the heater, and speak to it in soothing tones. “There, there,” I’d murmur, “There’s no need to get so upset.”
I eventually somehow got it into my head that the heater was making so much noise because I wasn’t paying enough attention to it during the day. That’s it — it was just lonely! So I’d crouch down and pet the heater each day, stoking it softly up to 100 times, begging it to please please PLEASE be quiet that night.
My tender ministrations were rarely rewarded, and I’d occasionally cry and scream at the heater, telling it that it was an ungrateful bitch. But with every burst of loud clanging, I’d be on my knees, apologizing and petting it, telling it that I didn’t mean it, and to please just settle down.
I frequently slept in the living room where we had a fish tank that provided enough white noise to cover the worst of the banging noises. This whole process repeated itself every winter for a few years, until I finally got it into my head that the heater was not, in fact, sentient.
If I had only discovered ear plugs years ago, this entire psychotic episode might never have happened.
So this story is going to get a little gross, but don’t let that stop you from reading. It’s no second asshole, but it’ll do.
I have quite possibly the strongest gag reflex known to man, much to the dismay of past and potential boyfriends. The list of things that make me gag is endless, and includes things like strong wind, cold air, and even exercise. I still can’t take a shot of alcohol to this day because as soon as it hits my throat, I shoot it violently right back up.
Anyway, when I was little, from about the ages of 4-9, I was sick with a cold on a regular basis. Sinus infections were my constant companions, and when I’d lie down to sleep at night, the snot from my nose would begin to trickle down the back of my throat.
A normal person might just cough a bit, but not me. In the dead of night, I would vomit everywhere while still asleep. I wouldn’t wake up until I eventually rolled into the now cold pile of vomit covering my pillow. In horror, I’d turn on the light and survey the damage. One side of my head would be completely caked in puke the consistency of oatmeal, and my clothes were crusty and stiff with pale pink grits. My waist-length hair would be sopping wet, and my sheets and comforter looked like they had been hit with a spew-filled grenade.
My routine went thusly: Pad out of bed, creep upstairs, sloooowly open the door to my parents’ bedroom, then stand there, petrified with fear. I hated waking up my parents every time I threw up, but there wasn’t a good alternative. They would never get mad about it, but I could tell they were exhausted and annoyed by my repeated performances. So I would stand there in the dark, my vomit-filled hair beginning to dry and crack, and wring my hands for close to 30 minutes. I’d shift anxiously from foot to foot, trying to decide who I should wake up.
My mom was usually the less annoyed of the two, but she was nearly impossible to drag into consciousness. I could poke her, call her name, shake her, even jump on her with no result. My dad was typically more upset by seeing me covered in my own digestive juices, but he could be woken up with a whisper, so he got the brunt of clean-up duty.
I would touch his arm lightly, and his eyes would fly open, confused yet alert. He’d take in my watery eyes and vomit-covered face, and let out a long, low sigh through his nostrils that set his mustache aflutter. He’d push me into his bathroom so that I could shower and clean myself up, and he would slowly drift downstairs and collect all my soiled bedding and stuffed animals. He’d sleepily run a load of laundry, nodding off periodically until I emerged warm and clean. The process of picking chunks of food out of my hair was painstaking, so these showers lasted a long time while I scrubbed.
Fresh sheets would go over the rubber mattress cover that I slept with every night, and I would fall back into an uneasy sleep. I never puked twice in the same night, so my dad would go back to bed as well. My first beloved stuffed animal, Piggy, sadly became a casualty of my overactive gag reflex. He was placed into the dryer after a puking session, and his fur melted together until he was a solid lump of fibrous plastic with a snout and two black button eyes. He was replaced by an identical pig that I called “Piggy Mach II,” unaware that mach was a unit of speed rather than a fancy way of saying “version.”
My gag reflex also prevented me from taking pills until I was a teenager. I suffered from frequent migraines when I was young, and the pain was unbelievable. The pounding would be so intense that I would start to cry, which in turn would make the pain worse, which would then make me cry harder, etc., etc. This vicious cycle would continue until the stabbing in my head would make me (of course) throw up. This would release some endorphins that would make me feel a little better, at least for a brief period of time.
A doctor put me on the beta-blocker Inderal, which was thought at that time to reduce the incidence of migraines. The tiny blue pill had to be taken whole, and could not be crushed. But my attempts to swallow the pill resulted in it shooting from my mouth and skittering across the floor. So every morning, I would dissolve the pill by swishing it around with a mouthful of water. This process took a good 30 minutes or so, and since I held the water in my mouth the whole time, I became effectively mute each day. My parents got very good at interpreting my grunts and squeaks, and I rarely had to resort to using a pen and paper.
Thankfully, I can take pills just fine these days, though I still have the digestive constitution of a finicky cat. I live a good portion of my life in constant nausea, but haven’t thrown up in my sleep since I was a child.
I have a special relationship with sleep. I first noticed I thought about sleep differently when I was a teenager.
Sure, all teens love sleep, but I really, really had a thing for it. To feel rested, I need at least ten hours of sleep a night. At the minimum. It is not unusual for me to sleep 12-15 hours at a stretch, and it is full on AWESOME. I sleep so much that I actually consider it a hobby.
I love the whole feeling of climbing into bed, of letting my back stretch out, of wrapping myself in blankets. I lie in bed and read, or listen to music, or watch TV until I fall asleep. When I’m almost out, I rouse myself just enough to put my computer or book on the floor, then drift away. I often have very vivid dreams, though they not always very interesting. There’s nothing worse than dreaming about a typical day at work while asleep. Dreams about answering hundreds of emails are not my idea of fun.
But despite this, there’s nothing better than sleeping in completely and utterly. I mean you put in some ear plugs, close your blinds, and you are dead to the world. Maybe you wake up and the sun has already gone down since you’ve slept until 5 pm (oops?). Maybe you come to around 9 am, but go back to sleep because, hey, you don’t have any responsibilities today. Maybe you wake up slowly, luxuriously, but you just stay in bed and read a book for a while.
The only time my entire body is all one temperature is when I am either 1) in the shower, or 2) asleep. I suffer from terrible circulation in my hands and feet, so having both nice and toasty after a few hours under the covers feels wonderful. I have back pain most of the time, but it disappears after I’ve been asleep for a while. Sometimes my dreams are fantastic, and occasionally I can wake myself up enough to consciously control the dream while still being asleep. It’s always fun to wreak havoc in one’s own subconscious.
If I have to wake up to an alarm for too many days in a row, I get extremely crabby and pissed off. If I am kept from decent sleep for a day or two, I will be nearly unable to function in the world.
Basically, sleep is awesome, and I would do it for at least 12 hours per day if I could. I don’t understand the concept of “too much sleep,” and people who wake up at 6 am to go to the gym or something baffle me. What could be better than being asleep?