My partner, Ramon, sleepwalks. He’s wandered barefoot through the halls of my college apartment building, stood in the shower – half-undressed – to “get ready,” and eerily swayed in the darkness of our bedroom. After almost six years of troubleshooting, I’ve learned to expect a sleepwalking or sleep-talking episode from him when I hear a loud, funny chewing noise. Once I learned to anticipate this phenomenon, I kept my camera – whether it was my dSLR or my phone – ready by my side to show Ramon what he was up to.

I discovered he was a sleepwalker soon after we started dating in 2010. While the episodes are mostly tame, he once ran around my college apartment knocking down chairs and trying to escape to the elevator room. His real life personality is generally calm and reserved, so he had a pretty good laugh imaging himself acting out like that.
Ramon poses for a portrait in Seattle, WA.

While his condition makes for a good story to laugh about with each other and with our friends, it didn’t take long to realize his sleepwalking is just as frightening as it is entertaining. And Ramon never remembers wandering away, so essentially I’m the only one dealing with his sleepwalking episodes.

Left: Ramon sleepwalks in June 2014 in our home in San Luis Obispo, California. We lived with three other housemates during this time so I would be extra vigilant about bringing him back to bed.
Right: I guide Ramon back to our bedroom after following him around our home.

“Jovelle and my family have been telling me to keep a dream journal for years so that I can better keep track of my sleep patterns,” Ramon says. “The problem is that I never remember any of my dreams long enough to write them down and I never remember any of my sleepwalking episodes. Having other people tell me about my sleepwalking and show photos of me doing things that I can’t recall is the only glimpse I have into this other world.”

His parents have a memory of him sleepwalking as early as second grade and his sister often recounts a time she found him in his room with a wet blanket over his head, clearly from wandering outside in the rain.

Last year, we drove up to Vancouver, British Columbia early to beat border traffic and chose to rest in the car at a Safeway parking lot before exploring the city. During our nap, Ramon began to shift around and placed his hands on the steering wheel, while I clutched the car keys in my hand.

Ramon tries to take the wheel while napping in a Safeway parking lot in Vancouver, BC. We drove up to Canada early to beat border traffic and chose to rest before exploring the city. When we still lived in New Jersey, Ramon would rest in the driver's seat for a few minutes after the long commute from Edison or New Brunswick to his parent's house. He'd jolt awake, thinking he fell asleep while driving. (January 2015.)
Ramon tries to take the wheel while napping in a Safeway parking lot in Vancouver, British Columbia in January, 2015.

“I’d wake up and listen to stories of what I did during the night,” Ramon says.

Though his episodes are – for the most part – tame, he once ran frantically around my college apartment, knocked chairs down, and tried to escape to the elevator room.

“No matter how outlandish the stories were – they never felt like anything more than just stories to me,” he says.

Sleepwalkers may roam their homes, navigate staircases, and open cabinets and doors – all with their eyes open and listless. We’re often warned not to wake a sleepwalker, so when I discover my love is missing from my side, I’ll gently nudge him back toward the warmth of our bed – sometimes resentfully.

But what if I don’t catch him in time and he trips down the stairs? What if I’m out of town and he finds himself in the driver’s seat of our car again? During my past trips out of town, he’s called and told me about waking up on the living room or kitchen floor, and I imagined the worst possible scenarios. So I worry.

Ramon poses for a portrait in June, 2014, while resting at SLO-Op, a 24-hour climbing gym in San Luis Obispo, California.

Ramon can laugh at these images of himself in such absurd situations but is more put-off by his own empty gaze and lack of control. So he worries.

Neither of us know if we should be handling his sleepwalking differently than we already are, but I do have this satisfaction: even in his sleep, Ramon always says “I love you” back.

He’s often caught in the space between dream world and waking life. This ongoing project that I started in 2014 creeps into that space, what surrounds it, and how we’re dealing with it together.

Ramon gets ready for work. He never remembers what happens while he sleep walks, so I recount my experience Ñ often while he's brushing his teeth and getting dressed. Seattle, WA.
Ramon gets ready for work in our apartment in Seattle. We moved here about a year and a half ago to grow as photographers, and to get away from the comfort of New Jersey where we both grew up.
Top left: Ramon naps during a family party in Cranford, New Jersey.
Top Right: The view from our tent during a camping trip we took to Yosemite National Park, June, 2014.
Bottom Right: Ramon sleepwalks with a sleeping bag over his head in Birmingham, Alabama, August, 2013.
Bottom Left: Fall leaves on the sidewalk during one of our walks from our apartment building to the bus stop in South Seattle.
Left: Ramon sleepwalks while “cutting vegetables” in the kitchen. He spotted our chef‘s knife out on the counter so I put it away before picking up my camera.
Right: Ramon sleepwalking in our kitchen apartment in Seattle in November, 2014.
Ramon waits for me in his truck while I make his portrait.
Ramon, awake, waits for me in his truck while I make his portrait.

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Jovelle Tamayo is an independent visual journalist from New Jersey, currently based in Seattle, WA. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @jovellephoto.