22 December 2011


Sometimes when traveling I have a rather hard time sleeping. For various reasons. Sometimes it is because I am scared out of my wits. For example, in high school when my choir went to a competition and I woke up screaming in the hotel only to find out the my roommate was having a "night terror" and was yelling and pounding on the door trying to escape from people she thought were attacking her. Needless to say images of her dream-fiends crawling in the the bathroom window and hovering over my bed in the dark didn't exactly lull me to sleep.

Then there was the time a few years ago when I had to "sleep" in my aunt's "office," where she keeps all of her magic supplies--crystal balls, various useful materials for seances, books on voodoo, magic and spirits. As hard as I tried not to be mortified by the thought of the strange spirits that my aunt evoked in that space, I couldn't for the life of me free myself from the sensation that I wasn't alone in that room. And I didn't like it. I don't know that I've stayed in bed so still and wide-eyed with fear since I was a little kid afraid of the dark. All I wanted to do was get out, but I was too afraid to move.

Most recently, I had a different kind of frightening experience the first night I spent in Porto, Portugal a couple weeks ago. This particular scary night had less to do with dreams and imaginary(?) spirits and much more to do with the two random roommates I was sharing the hostel dorm with.

To try my best to make a long story short (though generally I am much more adept at making short stories long...):
When I went to bed around midnight on the top of one of the two bunk beds, no one else was in the room. So, my first introduction came at 4:30am when one of them flung open the door, half crazy and (I assume) quite drunk. He woke up his friend (who had come in earlier and gone straight to sleep), and me, asking for empanadas which apparently he suspected the other roommate had, or perhaps had eaten. This was all going on in Spanish, and while I was half asleep. I tried to ignore the arguing, until I heard a large crash and, peering over the edge of my bunk bed, witnessed an all out brawl as the formerly sleeping roommated pummelled the other guy, and then vise versa. I think I interjected a few feeble, "what are you doing?"s and "what is going on?"s. And then continued to stare wide eyed and opened mouthed at this unbelievable scene from my loft above. After they stopped hitting each other, the sleepy roommate started getting dressed and throwing things around the room and threatening to turn the other guy in to the police. The other one told him he was making a fool of himself and that he'd kill sleepy if he went to the police. They argued for awhile longer, until the sleepy one left (to go the police??) and I realized I was still staring at this random guy (who I now realized was a potential killer). I quickly lied down tried to look like I was sleeping, as the guy got into his bed and said "sorry" before turning out the light. I confess I found his apology rather feeble and insufficient given the situation at hand! But I let it go.

For the next twenty minuted I stayed in bed half trying to sleep/half contemplating the likelihood that this guy sleeping two feet away from me might be a dangerous criminal. Finding it impossible to sleep under these circumstances I finally crept out of bed and sneaked (why can't it be snuck??) out of the room as stealthily as possible... just in case! When I got down stairs to the lobby the hostel worker looked at my half asleep, dishevelled, barefooted self as if I was crazy. And when I explained that I was having trouble sleeping after being awakened by a rather noisy fight and threats between my roommates he helped me get some tea and eventually found me another place to sleep for the night.

Being as it was 6:30 in the morning before I went back to bed, and that I spent most of my remaining hours of sleep wondering how I was going to get back into the room with the scary strangers to collect my things in the morning, it was overall a rather tiring night.

But by the morning, it didn't seem quite as scary, and I felt perhaps I had slightly overreacted with my hasty escape during the night (though I still checked to make sure I would have different roommates the next night and crept quietly into the room in order not to wake anyone up when I went back for my things). So, when I was getting some hot chocolate in the kitchen after breakfast and some guy who I asked to pass the milk apologized to me for last night, I thought perhaps he had confused me with someone else. Until I realized--"Eres tu!" The dangerous criminal from the night before was there before my eyes, speaking to me quite politely and looking much more like a very embarrassed and sleepy young man than a murder. So after embarrassing him a bit more by recounting and questioning him about the events of the previous night in front of everyone at the table, I felt quite alright about forgiving him entirely. I mean, I might not have gotten much sleep, but at least I had an interesting adventure.

And the next night my roommates were girls who went to sleep before I did! Which reminds me of something I heard once-- a hostel is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Or something like that, anyway.

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