When I first arrived for school in New York City, I was particularly excited to find that I had a Japanese roommate. I had spent the entire summer before watching Death Note and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, so why wouldn’t we get along!? The problem was that my roommate hardly spoke a word of English. This little factor had never been a problem for me growing up; my mother’s first language was Spanish, we lived in Germany for two years and many of my older relatives never learned English… I was made for language barriers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the severe lack of communication.

Along with our dormitory welcome packs of condoms, we were each given roommate agreement forms to fill out and return to our respective resident advisors. When I returned to my room with my roommate, we sat down and attempted to go through the list of “agreements”.

I read out loud “Number 1. Would you like your room to be a social place? Yes, no, or some of the time.” I then looked up to find my roommate had an extremely dumbfounded look on his face. He then said “huh!?”

“Hmm, let me try this again” I said “Would you like friends to come to the room?”

“Uhhh….?”

“Ok, Ami and Natsuki come to room… yes?”

“Oh! Yes, I like.”

It was at this point that I decided we would try another day to finish our list of twenty-some odd agreements, and since Ami and Natsuki were both fluent in English, I would just have one of them translate for me . About three weeks into the year, I finally started settling into my daily routine. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I woke up around 10:00 am for pre-class reviews and last minute piano/ aural skills practice and prep. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was up by 8:00 am so I could allow whatever caffeinated beverage I chose to work its magic by 9:00 am music history lecture. And my Saturday and Sunday mornings depended entirely on my Friday and Saturday evenings.

One Saturday morning in particular, I woke up unusually early. As I tried to adjust my eyes to the daylight bursting through the north facing window of my 12th floor room, I heard a vibrant smacking noise. When I scanned the room, I saw my room mate with his blanket to his chin with his hand pulsating rapidly below his waistline… he was masturbating! I tried not to notice, and pretended to be asleep for the next couple of minutes, making the occasional stir to suggest that I might be close to waking up. When I heard his audible climax, I waited about 20 seconds before I jumped out of bed yawning and said “Oh my, what a beautiful day! I can’t wait to get outside and… yeah!” I then bolted out the door nervously with my toiletries and clothes to get ready for breakfast.

“You are not going to believe this…” I exclaimed to my friend Suzanne over breakfast “I saw my roommate masturbating this morning!”

“What!?” exclaimed my friend Suzanne “Like in the showers on accident and his curtain moved back…?”

“No, I woke up to him jacking off like a Texas oil well”

“Gross!” yelled Suzanne “You have got to do something about that! That is not okay, you have to tell someone.”

“Well I am! I’m telling you!” I replied “So what the hell am I supposed to do?” I must have looked incredibly frustrated. I had never in my life had to share a room with anybody before… except on overnight school trips.

“Ugh, that is so disgusting!” said Suzanne “Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do if… UGH!” she made gagging noises and continued “that just wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen. I just can’t believe, I mean, gross!”

“Well, what do you think I should do?” I asked “I mean, I obviously can’t talk to him, and we never finished our roommate agreement form, so it’s not like we established any type of boundaries.”

“But those are not boundaries you should have to establish Jacob!” said Suzanne as she stirred her yogurt. “Seriously, that sounds like a severe cultural barrier.”

“Cultural barrier” I exclaimed with a laugh “It’s not like he was from some third world country, he’s from Tokyo.”

“Shut up” said Suzanne “that’s just gross. He must just not have any personal boundaries.”

“The thing is” I said “He is so nice, and everyone really loves him in the jazz department.”

“Who cares, that’s disgusting! You have got to tell him that way he doesn’t embarrass himself even worse later on.” Said Suzanne with an extremely worried look on her face “can you imagine what would happen if he did that in front of someone potentially influential to his career someday. Seriously, embarrassing him now will definitely be of service to him in the future.”

“But what do I tell him?” I asked “We do not even speak enough of the same language to decide whether or not to have company!” I said in an irritated tone.

“Here’s what you do… next time you are both in the room, go up to him and say ‘Hey, Wang Dong… cut your shit!”

“Wang Dong?” I repeated with a giggle “someone’s a little bit racist”

“Well, you can’t blame me” said Suzanne with an elated laugh “you never told me his name.”When I went to my RA to ask about the incident, I was told that any request to switch roommates would have to be carried out in front of a committee, and that I would have to explain to my roommate in front of said committee, why I wanted to switch. Given our lack of verbal communication, I couldn’t see myself acting out the main reason I was so annoyed with him. Later that day, I went to the Bed Bath and Beyond in Lincoln Center to buy a really loud alarm clock.

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