Eyes wide open

Feb. 4, 2019, 12:59 a.m.

When people go around the room sharing fun facts about themselves during a first day of class or a club meet-up, they tend to opt for their favorite ice cream flavors, exciting experiences from past travels or obscure hidden talents. I, on the other hand, consistently offer up the intimate, mystifying fact that my eyelids are simply too small for my enormous eyeballs.

Shutting my eyes all the way closed is an arduous task. It requires conscious effort and a sort of muscular straining that most people aren’t familiar with. When I fall asleep, I’m almost certain that my eyes are all the way closed, but deep into the night, as my precious little lids tire from the strain of blinking all day long, they take their own break for the evening. The menacing whites of my eyeballs peek out from under the rising hoods of my eyelids, resulting in the unsettling half-dead expression that might be found on a zombie or an individual possessed by Satan himself. It becomes even more terrifying when coupled with my tendency to sleep with my mouth hanging open.

This phenomenon is only a recent discovery for me. The first time I realized that I didn’t shut my eyes all the way was on an airplane, when the kind lady seated next to me prodded me awake asking if I was alright. What did she mean, I had asked her, still half-asleep.

“Your eyes were rolling back in your head!” she exclaimed nervously.

Moving into college solidified this as a regular occurrence. I awoke to my freshman-year roommate, whom I had met just the evening before, standing over me, panic-stricken and with a cellphone in hand. “God, I thought you were having a seizure!” she cried.

I texted my mother immediately. “Mom! I sleep with my eyes open!”

“You’ve done that since you were a toddler,” she retorted casually.

I’d lived my whole life falling asleep on bus rides and flights, unknowingly striking fear into the innocent hearts of fellow passengers, who were undoubtedly worried that the demon possessing my lanky body might suddenly jump into their own.

I’ve since made it a point to provide disclaimers to anyone who might end up witness to the horrifying activity that is my sleeping schedule. “Not to freak you out or anything, but I sleep with my eyes half-open. So if you see my eyes rolling back into my head, it’s totally chill.”

I’ve also made the grand realization that in sharing this fact with the world, I have discovered plenty of other people just like me. We find unity in the impossibility of ever becoming a “sleeping beauty.” We take pride in the fact that we might ward off predators with our frightening eyes, for the night is dark and full of terrors. I should know, because I am one of them.


Contact Clara Spars at cspars ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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