I decided to share a room with my friend Ethan in the mutual interest of cheaper rent, with Ethan agreeing to be the fourth person squeezed into our modestly sized three-bedroom apartment.
"Of course, we'd have to share a bed," Ethan said. "Your room isn't big enough for two, and I'm not paying for bunk beds. Besides, it's only for a few months."
He had a point, of course, and I had to admit the almost conjoined-twin intimacy of sharing a bed intrigued me. On top of that, Ethan had a girlfriend, which would surely make things interesting.
"All right," I said. "Let's do it."
Not surprisingly, my friends were nonplussed. "Wait, you can't do this," they said. "What about his girlfriend?"
"Not a problem," I replied without hesitation. "She lives in New York. She'll probably never even come down for the few months. And besides, she doesn't mind."
In fact, she was in love with the idea. "Aw, that would be so cute!" she responded to Ethan's proposal. "You just make sure to snuggle up close to Ethan on those cold nights," she told me with a wink.
This didn't satisfy my still-aghast friends. "Well, what if you ever wanted to, you know, have Someone Else over when he was there?"
With a skeptical "Ha!" I convinced my friends that this wouldn't be a problem. Who'd ever think of using a shared bed for such, ahem, personal endeavors? I would never be so crude.
In truth, the addition of Ethan to my room caused few problems. His spartan decorative style did little to disrupt my meticulously organized room, and his persona—though droll and unassuming—alternated between unremarkable to mildly pleasant. He came to occupy the same social space as a quasi-mobile piece of furniture. Sharing a bed wasn't even odd. We could both sleep comfortably in the spacious queen with enough space left over to park a motorbike between us.
Problems didn't manifest until a couple of months into our new living arrangement. I had taken a long weekend trip to Indianapolis, and I returned tired and cranky from all the 5:30 a.m. academic conferences I'd endured. I was determined to get a good night's sleep in my own bed. To my unpleasant surprise, I opened the door to my apartment to find Ethan and Ann (the heretofore elusive New York girlfriend) at home. I quickly masked my shock at their presence with a friendly smile, which they reciprocated.
"Hi, Ann!" I shouted, trying to fit all my teeth into a grin, fully aware of how rude my next comment would be. "What are you doing here?"
Ethan spoke for her. "Welcome home," he said, chipper, singsong and totally unconvincing. "Ann is in town visiting. You're back early!"
"Nope, right on time."
For a moment we sat quietly, each calculating the best strategy for claiming dibs on the bed. I pounced first.
"Well, I'm beat," I said, briskly strolling into the bedroom. "'Night!"
Sometime around 2 a.m., the imaginary motorbike arrived. I dreamily pushed the Ann-shaped object out of my mind and returned to saving my high school from Lord Voldemort. By 7:30 a.m., however, the Ann-shaped motorbike was impossible to ignore. It had begun to emit loud gasps and moans. My eyes shot open.
This is not happening, I thought, but it was happening. I hugged the wall as tightly as possible and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to drown out the awful noise behind me by humming "Show Me the Way to Go Home." This quickly proved ineffective, as the rhythm of the bouncing bed soon accompanied the uncomfortable sounds. My entire body rolled with the undulations of the mattress, bobbing involuntarily in time with the proceedings. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a leg askew.
At this point, I could have simply left to go sleep on the couch, but it was my bed! So I lay there in silent protest. Looking back, I wish I had just sat up, turned around and stared unflinchingly at them. I wish I had started jumping up and down, belting out show tunes. I wish I had done anything to get them to stop. Instead, I turned to the only salvation my feeble mind could grasp in that awful moment: my mother.
I grabbed my cell phone and, trying to steady my hand against the jerking of the bed, text messaged my mom that I loved her. I guess I thought that nobody would do something so indecent next to someone conversing with his mother. I was wrong.
"Who are you texting?" Ethan calmly asked, during a lull.
"My mother," I replied.
"Oh, neat." The undulations resumed.
So did the absurdity. Moments later, the phone in my hand began to ring. I answered it.
"Nope, no reason."
"Just wanted to say I love you."
Bounce, bounce, bounce.
"OK, I'll talk to you soon. Bye."
Finally, the bouncing stopped.
Ann left the next day, returning only once more during the suddenly unlivable living arrangement. This time it was immediately after the two of them went on a winter camping trip. "Hi," I said when they walked through the door. "You're back early!"
"It's freezing out there," Ethan said, visibly shivering. "We just want a hot shower and a warm bed." They both dashed off to the shower.
A few minutes later, a scream came from the bathroom. Ethan popped his head out of the bathroom door. "Is the hot water heater broken?"
"Oh, yeah," I lied, having just turned on the washing machine and flushed all the toilets as soon as I heard the shower come on. "It's been like that the last few days."
"Never mind this," he said. "We're going to a hotel."
If they hadn't rushed out the door in such a frenzy, I would have gladly recommended one of these Chapel Hill hotels to them:
A newcomer to the Chapel Hill hotel scene, the Franklin Hotel couldn't be better positioned to enjoy all that downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro have to offer. Only a few minutes' walk separates the lobby from both the UNC campus and the bustle of Weaver Street Market.
This husband-and-wife-owned outfit prides itself in personalizing services for customers, going so far as to provide cribs for parents and bicycles for families. Pet owners can enjoy suites intended for them as well.
The Carolina Inn
211 Pittsboro St., 933-2001, www.carolinainn.com
Claiming colonial, antebellum, Georgian and neoclassical influences, The Carolina Inn's 12,000 square feet include ballrooms and parlors where visitors are encouraged to relax with a book. Southern hospitality is the specialty here.
The Siena claims to draw its inspiration from Italy, which isn't hard to believe. Nightly housekeeping with complimentary Belgian chocolates seals the deal for those looking for Four Diamonds of comfort.
One- and two-bedroom fully furnished condominiums within walking distance of the UNC campus and Franklin Street shopping. Condos are equipped with washer/dryer, microwave, gas stove and oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, all kitchenware and linens. Priced competitively with motels, to boot.
The Courtyard by Marriott
100 Marriott Way, 883-0700, www.courtyardchapelhill.com
Luxurious rooms with all the frills, The Courtyard offers high-speed wireless Internet, hot breakfast cooked to order and pet-friendly rooms.
101 Erwin Road, 933-4848, www.ResidenceInn.com
All suites have 32-inch HD LCD TVs. What more do you need to know?
Hampton Inn & Suites
6121 Farrington Road, 403-8700, www.hilton.com
Eleven miles from RDU and right next to the Friday Center, the Hampton is positioned opportunely for travelers or continuing education students.