Coffee & Flowers: Laughter

Of all the pleasures that are available to people on this planet, I think laughter has got to be one of the most intoxicating. When I was younger, one of the things that I liked to do the most was make people laugh—for instance, I remember doing endless impersonations of our school bus conductor (mang Angel, pronounced ang-hel) in fourth grade and then proceeding to chase after the school bus, flaring my nostrils; this went on for far longer than it should have.

In high school, I remember long lunch breaks when I wouldn’t be able to finish my food because my friends and I were so busy sitting in a circle, clutching our stomachs and laughing at ridiculous things like throwing candy at upperclassmen or showering unfortunate (or maybe fortunate—it’s hard to tell) strangers with chips and corn bits from the third floor balcony.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to discover that laughter can also be a kind of darkness. When you’re a kid, it feels like laughter is carefree—a kind of release. At 23, I think I can say that laughter is viscous: it’s profound, thick. If you’re not careful, you can drown in it.

I have this theory (I’m sure I am not the first to “theorize” this but I will say it anyway) that the thing which allows (the loss of) something to be sad or the thing which gives something weight is its ability to make you laugh.

I used to be an avid Lizzie McGuire fan. Those jokes really made me laugh—the digs at her kid brother, Ethan with his rinse, lather, repeat joke; that show cracked me up. Years and years later, it tore my heart apart to realize that despite the weird romance of the let’s-cut-Miranda-out-of-it movie, she and Gourdo didn’t end up together because the movie takes place mid-series, not at the end. Meaning the romance stuff happened before the end of the series, meaning Lizzie and Gourdo just stay friends minus the you rock, don’t ever change bit.

This also reminds me of the guy who I used to watch Lizze McGuire with when I was 11—that year (2002) I moved to a different school and this guy was one of the first people who I met there. We were fast friends: of course that began with him mocking me which lead to really hilarious things like him taking my books and hiding them in his locker while commissioning his friend to steal some of the things I needed for clearance and hiding them away, complete with a ransom note left in my bag—this sparked an odd “hate” triangle between me, him and his friend whom I nicknamed Dalmatian because of the inordinate number of moles on his face (children can be cruel, we already know that haha) where we would take each other’s stuff and do our best to insult each other based on our physical attributes that were deemed unattractive at the time (e.g. kulotsky for me, Dalmatian for the friend, Buddha for the guy). I think, despite the fact that my 11-year-old self would never admit it, the promise of laughter was one of the reasons why I really looked forward to going to school that year. In the mornings, I would wait for Buddha to get to school just so I could make fun of him if he was late and then we would spend our subjects comparing notes, stepping on each other’s feet under the table (no shoes, and not competitively, even—just kind of resting our feet on top of one another) and then at night we would text each other while watching re-runs of Lizzie McGuire (the show aired new episodes at 4:30 pm, which made it impossible for us to catch the actual screening since we were dismissed at 3:30 pm). Sixth grade flew by, to be honest—until I realized that we hadn’t moved seats even if it we were well into the second quarter. With that realization, other hints began to creep up on me like that our class adviser would always make us sit together even if everyone else was constantly shuffled around. By the time I realized the unnameable it, I’d already formed a strategy against it: something that ripples through my life, even now. I made up a crush on this upperclassman I didn’t know (he was gorgeous, though) just so I wouldn’t have to face the humiliation of possibly liking this person who I used to spend all this time with. We didn’t talk for 8 years.

See? Laughter can break your heart.

We did end up talking in our second or third year in college, though. I ran into him outside school and we chatted for a while. We talked about food and cutting class (which we were both doing at the time) and our majors and remember when? And it was all pleasant but 19 isn’t 11—you can’t run into someone almost a decade later and suddenly say hey what’s up wanna step on my feet? It would be nice, but things change and people change and they should.

I realized today that most of the people and the things that I miss are people and things that made me laugh. Also, they are things that are lost in time: like the mosquito in Jurassic Park, it’s sealed up into its own old sphere. To force that preserved thing to come out of the past gives birth to monstrosity. There is a time limit for everything. I still think Einstein was wrong about that. Relative is as relative as relativity gets.

Five years ago, there was another boy—there always is, isn’t there; while some people argue that talking about men is un-feminist, I beg to differ (but that’s a whole other post)—and I remember laughing a lot: it was like being a kid again. Play-fighting, yelling, giddiness, jokes, routines, bus rides, friendship. That was also when Ondoy happened. The night before the storm, I was partying it up at a club with my friends. I cut class the day the city drowned. Has it recovered? Have I? Has he? Have any of us?

Filipinos laugh at everything. That’s a very true cliché. That’s why it’s so difficult to turn on the TV, to listen to the news—that’s why it makes me cringe to hear people talk on public transport, to hear canned laughter, to be faced with the harshness of hilarity so deafening it’s impossible not to hear the despair behind it. My parents laugh a lot.

I’ve been laughing a lot recently: with my friends, with my boyfriend, at work, at home. And in that moment right before the funny moment ends, you see everyone coming out of the state of laughter and there it is—the knowing that the moment is over.

So why is this a coffee and flowers entry? Because I don’t think I would trade laughter for any other pleasure in the world—not even booze (harhar). I’m not a very religious person but when I think of the end of life, I think that we can only judge our lives by how much we’ve laughed. I think that is the only accurate measure of how much we’ve lived and loved and how much pain we’ve felt; how much we’ve truly cared about something. I’m not sure about what that has to do with anything in the “greater scheme” of things, but having had those things is the closest to a dinosaur that our mosquito-amber memories are going to get.

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