The Eighth Page

Spooning With Strangers

More than 6,000 people attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s policy conference in Washington DC. Among them were nearly 1,200 students. The accommodations, I was told, were all taken care of. I was still uneasy, for I would be sharing a hotel room with a boy I had never met before for three days. Late Saturday night, just a few hours after my last exam of Winter Term, I stepped up to the check-in counter at the Washington DC Embassy Suites. The lobby was crowded with students. Each nerdy, sweaty boy worried me, as I imagined sharing a bar of soap with him. “Alright Mr. Adler, I see you’re with the student delegation. You’re all set, room 607.” “That’s a smoking room, right?” I asked. She wasn’t amused. Purely out of curiosity, I asked “What’s the name of my roommate?” “The computer says Vadim and Sammy.” “Is Vadim’s last name Andsammy?” I asked. “No.” I was already nervous to meet someone I’d be sharing a room with, but now I worried I’d be meeting someone I’d be sharing a bed with. I walked slowly down the hallway after I left the elevator. I was in no rush to get to the room. After inspecting the ice machine and reading my room number in Braille, I slid the electronic key into the door, wondering who I’d meet on the other side. I introduced myself to the boy sitting at the desk in the hotel room. It was Vadim. He was a Senior and, like most of the students at the policy conference, he was Jewish. He wore a blue blazer with a red tie. He spoke about colleges. He was applying to the usual places: Brandeis, Jew State and the Goldstein Institute of Technology. As we exchanged pleasantries, I glanced about our room. We were standing in a small living room with a couch. It seemed there would be no bed-sharing after all. My joy was crushed, however, when I looked into the bedroom. Instead of the two, queen-size beds normally found in a hotel, we had been dealt only one. The name Embassy Suites was to be taken literally. Realizing two of the three roommates would be sleeping together, I exchanged an awkward nod of understanding with Vadim. We agreed that calling the front desk for a cot would solve our problem. “They may charge us for the cot,” I said. We immediately agreed to split the cost. I dialed the front desk. “Hi, this is room 607 and we were hoping that you might send a cot up here.” The front desk informed me that they were out of cots. “Well, we have three guys up here and two beds.” They said there was nothing they could do. They asked if there was anything else they could send up. “Maybe a video camera,” I said. They hung up. I asked Vadim if he wanted to discuss the sleeping arrangements. We quickly agreed that it would be best to wait for Sammy, the third roommate. It was clear that the two of us we incapable of directly addressing our problem. It was 1:30 in the morning. We had to be up at seven. Vadim and I had enjoyed an episode of Law & Order together. Sure, we were friends, but I’m not the kind of guy who just jumps in bed with someone after just meeting them. Where was the third roommate? We were very tired, and soon we decided that it was absurd for us to wait up for Sammy. Sammy’s bag was already in the room, so we knew that he was socializing in the lobby or in someone else’s room. Vadim and I began to talk smack about Sammy, despite the fact that neither of us had met him. “Can you believe this kid?” I said to Vadim. “Thinks he’s so great with his Dillard’s suit.” We had gone through his suitcase. I proposed that we go to sleep and leave Sammy a note. Vadim wrote the note, explaining that we had gone to sleep. Hoping to influence Sammy’s choice of bed-mates, I considered adding to the note that I had full-body dandruff. Instead, I kindly offered to sleep on the pull-out couch. Vadim would take the bed. Sammy would have to walk into a dark room and climb into bed with a stranger. I was gambling on him choosing the bed rather than the couch. Vadim said if he was in Sammy’s situation, he’d sleep on the floor. We went to sleep. Finally, around three o’clock, Sammy entered the room. I was still awake, but I pretended to be asleep. The social awkwardness we’d placed Sammy in was too precious to ruin. I was curious to see what he would do. I heard Sammy pick up our note. He sighed. Then he got ready for bed. I peaked out from under the covers to get a look at Sammy. He had a thick build and was wearing only underpants. He had a buzz-cut. I buried my head in my pillow. Moments later, I heard the sound of the sheets being peeled back. This was it. Whose bed had Sammy chosen? I felt relieved as Sammy climbed into bed with Vadim. “Oh, hello,” Vadim said, half awake. Sammy asked Vadim where he was from. “Baltimore? You must be a big Ravens fan.” As they settled into bed with one another, Sammy and Vadim reaffirmed their manhood by discussing football. I relaxed in my bed, grateful to be on my own. It would be one more night before I got the chance to spoon with Vadim.