On laughing
By
    Graphic by Savannah Christensen / North by Northwestern.

    “Why do you laugh so much and so loudly?” my friend asked.

    My laugh is troublesome if I am in a library, or if students are taking a test in the next room. The rest of the time, however, I count it a blessing to be able to give myself so completely to mirth.

    This seems to be the way I’ve always been. I remember easily collapsing into a pile of giggles with my childhood friends, and I still laugh just as readily. But between then and now, there was a time – one that I don’t like to think about – in which laughter was a luxury that I rarely experienced.

    ——

    I came across a piece of paper in my bag, and fumbled it open. A note – I vaguely recalled stuffing it away after my closest friend handed it to me weeks ago. “You don’t laugh as much as you used to, you know that?” she wrote neatly on the first line.

    Many suffer from worse things, but for me, betrayal was a personal nightmare – a reality so painful that it seemed unreal. Every day my mind went back to the same place, the same face, the same confession and the same horrified incredulity, the same “How could you do this to me?” I buried all this deep inside me and went to school each day, going about my usual tasks with a normal demeanor, despite living miles away from normal.

    Still, my friend was too perceptive to buy my facade. What she pointed out, however, was something I hadn’t really considered. It’s easy to see how much misery the previous events brought into my life, but not how much happiness I lost. They cast a shadow over everything I previously found lighthearted and enjoyable. My secret strained my interactions with friends, and I spent my alone time either overwhelmed by emotions or fighting to keep them at bay.

    Despite all this, someone would occasionally say something so hysterical that I would just throw my head back laughing. I forgot about everything that was driving me mad, and felt the distance between me and the world diminish. I feasted on that small slice of sanity, that glimmer in the night.

    In those moments, I felt like my old self again. I was happy to be alive.

    ——

    My roommate asked me one morning if I remember having a happy dream. “I heard you laughing in your sleep,” she said. I didn’t believe her at first – I had absolutely no memory of it. I have heard of sleep talking, but sleep laughing? That sounds ludicrous. She must’ve been dreaming.

    A few nights ago, though, I woke suddenly in the dark. I felt certain that I was giggling out loud just a moment ago. The fleeting impression of a dream – some story set in high school – slipped away as my mind regained full consciousness. Damn, my roommate was right, I realized. I congratulated myself for leaving my nightmares so far behind, and fell back asleep.

    ——

    The question came after I produced a particularly shrill bout of uncontrollable laughter: “Why do you laugh so much and so loudly?”

    Breathless, I managed, “I dunno. I can’t help it. It’s a physical response.”

    “To what?”

    “To you!” He made a derpy face, and off I went giggling again.

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