What Made Me Laugh?

What Made Me Laugh?

It was the girl laughing. We were on the train and she had to stand. There were no gentlemen aboard.

She was holding on to the strap above her head with one hand and the book she was reading in the other.

It started as a tiny, muffled chuckle which she quickly stifled. But it refused to be suppressed and built inside her with each sentence she read. I was watching and could see her shoulders shake and the little bubbles of laughter popping in her throat. I started to smile.

When the next giggle broke through her defenses, I saw it coming and felt it build in my chest in sympathy. This time she couldn’t hold it in at all and gave up trying. What started as a giggle grew into a full-blown, throw-your-head-back laugh, making me laugh along with her. I had no idea what she was reading: no clue what was the joke.

Someone sitting across from me started smiling, a chuckle escaped from someone else. As the girl’s laughter was brought back under control, we all settled down and resumed whatever rumination we’d previously been engaged in. But she couldn’t resist the next sentence she read and, once more, her laughter resisted restraint.

The bubble in my own chest hadn’t quite quite settled and popped again. The lady opposite joined me, nudging her neighbour who laughed too. We lost it. The ripple of laughter travelled the length of the carriage, its magic touching someone else every now and then, They infected others until the girl on the train had the whole carriage laughing, really laughing. The kind you just can’t keep in. It breaks out in unmeasured quantity, uncontrollable and satisfying. You don’t need to know what’s funny any more. Laughing is what’s funny. It just feels so good.

The girl smiled and waved as she stepped off the train at the next stop, leaving everyone laughing and smiling, talking to their neighbour whether they knew them or not. In her hand, she waved the book. Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Mission accomplished.

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