I’m told today to go to a casual meeting for social media research students. I walk into the room and see people in suits, a presentation and a ‘confidential’ discussion. I am not supposed to be here. But I’ve sat down. Oh no. The room is oppressively serious, I feel claustrophobic, the most inappropriate thing I could do now is laugh. But it’s escaping out of me in short bursts, a snort here, a smile there.I have to look at the floor, bite my cheeks and think about dead puppies. I’m stuck in there for half an hour (till it ends and I run free from the room), stuck in a battle with my body trying not to let a shriek escape.
I have always found keeping in laughter incredibly difficult. The more I shouldn’t laugh, the funnier it becomes. I remember when I had my appendix out I laughed for an hour because it hurt so much to laugh, the more it hurt, the more I laughed.
The boy laughed. He laughed when he was happy, when he broke his arm, when he was crying. He even laughed at his bullies who hit him because he was the village idiot.
It wasn’t a snide sneer, a constructed cackle or a greedy guffaw. People in the village used laughter to make others feel bad or to broadcast how much fun they were having. But the boy’s laugh was a snorting, unashamed, uncontrollable explosion of amusement. Life was funny to the boy, and that made most people suspicious.
Perhaps he knew something they didn’t, or perhaps he really was an idiot. It didn’t matter to the old woman. She walked right up to him one day as he sat laughing in the market square. At first she just listened and then she began to laugh with him. They laughed until they couldn’t breath. Before she left he said “no-ones ever understood my joke before, most people are idiots.” She came back at the same time everyday after that. And they would laugh because it made them happy, because life was funny, because people thought they were idiots.