Roommate Horror Stories: Sleeping With Both Eyes Open

Jemma Howlett shares a roommate story with an eye-opening twist.

Roommate Sleeping

By Jemma Howlett

Meeting a new roommate can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Perhaps never more so than your freshman year of college, as you enter a completely new environment and prepare to spend the year away from home and in close proximity to a stranger for a whole year. And though we’ve all heard our fair share of roommate horror stories, I was hoping for a fairytale when I started at Vassar College, so I was pretty nervous to see how my freshman roomie story would go.

When the time came to pick my first roommate I had two options: 1) Try to find someone I liked by social media stalking them from the Class of 2017 accepted students Facebook page, or 2) allow my new school to match me with a roommate. Vassar described their roommate matching process as “a thorough survey,” and I didn’t really want to risk falling down a Facebook rabbit hole, so I put my fate in Vassar’s hands. But when I sat down to fill out this “extensive” questionnaire, I was shocked to find it was composed of only six questions. How could they find my perfect roommate in only six questions?! Most of the questions were what you would expect, “When do you like go to bed?” and “How clean do you keep your room?” (I gave myself a generous ‘somewhat messy’ rating). And then came the last question: “Do you believe in magic?”


This was question number six on the “thorough” survey that is supposed to decide who I sleep mere feet away from for the next 9 months? Roommate-matching is serious business, Vassar. What if they don’t have good snacks for me to steal? And I don’t know, do I believe in magic? If I say no, does that mean I will get a gloomy, serious, fun-hating roomie who doesn’t believe in anything? If I say yes, will I get a crazy chick with a spell book who puts a hex on me when I do steal her decidedly subpar snacks? I chose the cop-out “unsure” option and hoped for the best. Over the summer, her highly anticipated name was revealed and, according to my Facebook stalking, she seemed pretty nice and normal.

As a varsity athlete in pre-season, I got to Vassar a week before the rest of the freshmen. The room was tiny. 9×11 feet might be optimistic. On the plus side, arriving before my roommate meant I got to spend hours contemplating the merits of either side of the room, and testing out both beds to see which was less uncomfortable, and rearranging the room to give my side all of the power positions.

I was just starting to get used to the whole living alone thing when freshman move-in rolled around. I came back from practice drenched in sweat, smelly, and exhausted. And there were my roommate and her parents, moving her things into my room. She was tiny, gorgeous, and spoke extremely fast. Her mom offered me homemade Indian food, so her family was making a solid first impression. We joked that the room was so small we could hold hands from our beds across the room while we slept. I got good vibes.

Our friendship grew over those first few weeks. I was right about her being nice and wrong about her being normal, but that was perfect; I am too weird to deal with a normal roommate anyway. We had both slightly overstated our cleanliness on our surveys, so we lived in comfortable squalor. We were equally bad at waking up in the morning so helped each other out: my alarm would go off, she would shout my name, and then I would get out of bed and go poke her till we were both up.

All was good and dandy those first few weeks—the honeymoon period. Then, one morning I noticed something odd. I was up early for class and she was still in bed. I was pretty sure she was awake because her eyes looked open. So I started talking to her. When she didn’t respond immediately I knew something was off — she was a talker. I got closer. Now I could tell that about 5/8 of her eyes were uncovered. I whispered her name. No response. Waved my hand in front of her face. No reaction. I stepped back awestruck. My roommate could literally sleep with her eyes open. How had I just noticed this?

When she finally opened her eyes for real I asked her about it. She nonchalantly said that yes, this was something that happened sometimes. That her eyes were literally so big that sometimes her eyelids have trouble covering the whole thing.

At first, I was just dismayed that I couldn’t threaten her when I got mad by saying, “I’d sleep with one eye open.” She was already sleeping with BOTH eyes open. While it took me a while to get over the disturbing poetry of my roommate sleeping with her eyes open, I came to see this as one of her most marketable talents. “Want to see my roommate? She sleeps with her eyes open. It’ll cost you 10 dining bucks.” “Don’t mess with me! My roommate always has one eye open!” But seriously, could she be more badass? Shockingly, she has not yet used this super power to prank me, which is honestly a mistake on her part.

Hidden talents aside, I got lucky with the roommate. And we did hold hands in bed. Maybe now, I do believe in magic.

Roommate with her eyes open

The author (left) and her wide-eyed roommate.

Jemma HowlettJemma Howlett is a writer, runner, traveller, college student and carb-enthusiast. Check out her coffee blog: and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jemmahow.