A HISTORY OF LAUGHTER

mama, baby sarah, gram laughing

ONE

A co-worker once told me that it took the sickest, dirtiest jokes in order to get me to laugh, to crack a smile. I suppose in a sense she was right. This same co-worker also told me, on an unrelated occasion, that I reminded her of “an old style saloon worker, a Spanish whore” when I had leftover lip stain on my mouth and my hair was pulled up in a high ponytail. This was meant as a compliment; no, truly! I laughed pretty loudly at that, in a sort of nervous but appreciative manner. Unfortunately, I was self-conscious of my red mouth for the rest of the day.

TWO

I once knew this girl in middle school that was pretty and popular and always had a gaggle of friends. From where I stood she seemed to have it made. I knew she really didn’t because we both went to the same shitty public school in a dead town. Due to a “70s-open-concept-floor plan” we didn’t have any walls, just partitions and stained floors. Once a teacher failed a student. The student retaliated by throwing her into one of those partitions, collapsing it whole, causing a thundering BANG! This is the same place where one of my fellow classmates beat up our principal outside by the flagpole.

In any case, this adolescent beauty queen wasn’t perfect either and I’d find that out later when I heard her laugh. Her particular laugh was oddly nasally and as she threw her head back in that way that confident girls do, she always seemed to be on the verge of asphyxiation. Nearly choking on her own beads of saliva, she was always gasping for air. I may have been ugly but her laugh was hideous.

THREE

One time I was out in The Woods and decided I would enter a lit cabin. It looked approachable from the outside and I was young and curious so no harm, no foul. A man stood before a large painting of snakes, hyenas surrounding him, reading aloud from a long scroll. Distressed by his own words, and a secret code that he and the hyenas had had between them and that I was unaware of at the time, he began to chop his limbs off. Blood splattered unto the floor and the hyenas cackled. I, like an idiot without a following, was frozen and silently wet faced. One of the hyenas glued him back together and made their way outside, bits of him trailing behind them. Someone grabbed a bucket and a mop. Only when my own blood began to shed did I realize that the man was merely wearing a costume, for he was a hyena in his own right, cackling at me.

FOUR

It was around Valentine’s Day and I was feeling weird. I bought myself a giant teddy bear at the local drugstore. My boyfriend, at the time, sighed (I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY). We got into his car and he started the engine. I made the bear do cute little dances and I gingerly touched its satin bow. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed… My boyfriend said he was worried about me. I just thought he was being a little bit boring.

FIVE

Sometimes people expect you to laugh, even need you to, but sometimes what they’ve just said or done doesn’t warrant that. In this case, you can nod, smile and say, “Yeah, that’s funny.” …And sometimes it really is funny but you don’t feel like laughing.

SIX

One time I went to check on my mother who was sleeping but not feeling well. I either scared or annoyed the cat sleeping beside her head and she ran across my mother’s face creating large, diagonal cuts on her cheek. I held her as she gasped and as a knee-jerk reaction started laughing uncontrollably. The situation was so odd and I was scared. My mother was confused and so was I. Not long after I cleaned the wounds and bandaged her up. Work at the grocery store the next day was interesting, to say the least.

SEVEN

We laugh when we should be crying. We cry when we should be laughing. We can’t force tears out when we want to and we can’t contain giggles when we need to.

EIGHT

I went to see monsters and superheroes with a friend and his daughter yesterday and I was not disappointed. I ended up carrying her tiny toddler body for the majority of the time and hope that some sort of muscle tissue will become of it. She waved to the crowd, had small temper tantrums, drank juice and created abstract body art on my neck with a ballpoint pen. In this moment in time I could feel my eyes aging and it felt normal. She extracted some of the most genuine laughter out of me in a long time and she didn’t even try.

NINE

If we ever meet again my first reaction will be to laugh, I think.

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