I hardly laugh. It comes very unnatural to me. I find it strange when people laugh to a joke—it is a skill I am yet to master.
This trait has made my parents think me weird; so if you think I am, well, it is nothing new. I even see it as a compliment, because weirdness is a form of uniqueness. When you stand out of the crowd, people find a way to tag you as something different; and I tell you, different is good and weird is better.
When I was very young, my parents always tried to make me laugh. They tickled and made funny faces at me, but it only made me cry. When visitors came, my parents would forewarn them not to tease me or stuffs like that, ‘it will only make him cry.’ So I was that kind of kid people carried with straight faces. Sometimes, they would not bother to carry me at all.
I still remember the first day I laughed. It was a Saturday morning, September 9 1995. One of the days Uncle Sanra came to our house. His real name was Uncle Jinadu, but we called him Uncle Sanra in his absence. The reason for this was because of his acute pudginess. We’ve had to break down our doorframe twice, just to keep it up to date with his expanding weight. Since his bulging belly would interfere with the steering wheel, Uncle Sanra never drove a car, he hired a driver instead. Anytime he came to our house, he always requested we pull the standing fan close to him to dry up the sweat streaming from him, due to the ‘distance’ of walking from his parked car to our doorstep. Apart from his incessant chatter, one other thing Uncle Sanra could do perfectly well was to fart. Those deadly silent ones.
Uncle Sanra was aware of his excessive fat and he always promised to lose it, buying one exercise machine or the other, without using any. Most times, when he came to our house, it was to sell one exercise equipment or a diet pill or any other thing used to lose weight. My parents hardly bought, and reluctantly introduced him to their other friends, after his consistent prodding. He made quite a sum from these sales, but it was ironic, purchasing things to lose weight from a terribly fat man.
When he came that Saturday morning, my parents thought he came to promo another one of his lose-weight-fast pills, so they told me to tell him they weren’t around. I told him, but he still sat down, wheezing, catching his breath. The standing fan close to him, doing justice to his sweat. There was nothing to say, so we just stared at each other. His face was fallen, his eyes puffy and red. After a few minutes of awkward silence, he told me to tell my parents he came.
“So why should I tell them you came? Another diet pill?”
“No. It is your grandpa.”
I have seen grandpa just once. A bald frail man with an unusual complete set of teeth, for someone is age. He had been among the countless others who had failed to make me laugh.
“What happened to him?”
“Your grandfather is dead. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you.”
Then he began sobbing. As grandpa wasn’t a constant in my life, I wasn’t moved to tears. Then it happened. Maybe it was watching Uncle Sanra’s giant shoulders of bulbous fat shuddering like a mini earthquake, or the fact that I have held it in for so long, it happened: my head tilted upward, my mouth opened wide and bursts of laughter leaped out. Uncle Sanra stared at me. My parents also rushed out, probably because of the laugh or something. It was the first time my parents must have seen or heard me laugh. But the grief of grandpa’s death overwhelmed the birth of my laughter, maybe they even thought I was crying, as tears were trickling down my cheeks. My Mum held me close, petting me and stuff.
Would I sound weird, to you, if I told you I had a swell time at the funeral? Their grey faces, housing red eyes and leaking crystal tears—what is not funny about that? Ah! Please, don’t be a sadist and have a sense of humour. What’s the best time and place to laugh if not in the midst of grief?