We got on the elevator up to the office and heard it. Vita has a day programme on the main floor and the offices are just above. The elevator door creaked to a close and the rogue sounds of laughter run amok burst through the closing door and wrapped itself around us. I did what I never do on that elevator, I stopped the door from closing and just stood there and listened. Savoured the sound as it tickled the palette of my ears - sound that tastes good is rare and needs to be enjoyed.
The laughter began slow, low, like it had a Southern drawl. Then it built and built, one laugh giving encouragment to the next. Finally a full throated laugh filled the elevator with pure, unadulterated mirth. We, Joe and I, carrying foodstuffs in for a meeting later that day, began to giggle. We had no idea what had caused the laughter or who was laughing, but it didn't matter the laugh we heard tickled the bottom of our feet.
By the time we reached the second floor we too were laughing. I'm smiling here as I write this. It was so good to hear that kind of laughter. Unrestrained, gutbusting, trumpets of Jerhico laughing.
Not the restrained giggle of polite company.
Not the haughty smile of the 'better thans'.
Not the forced frivolity of a drunken partier.
Real, genuine, joy.
And I realized, I don't laugh much anymore. I find much funny. But sad funny, awful funny, I can't believe it funny. Joyous funny has eluded me these last few months, nay, years.
I don't know how it got left behind. I know I was berated for my laughter as a child ... too loud ... too brazen ... too noticable. I worked at bringing it down, bringing under control, finally ending it altogether and replacing it for the slow, quiet laugh that I have now. It's acceptable, it fits in, but it's not the one I was borne with.
I notice this in others too, I notice how when someone laughs too loud at something funny at a movie that everyone glances at each other ... like the laugh rule was broken. But the laugh I heard this morning was the real deal. It was the 'may interfere with aircraft frequency' kind of laugh. It was a laugh that could have parted the Red Sea. A hardy Hardy-Har-Har.
First time, in my adult life, I heard that laugh was when working in a large institution. A woman with a disability who had been given the job of carting food down a corridor had somehow slipped. There was scrambled egg everywhere. Everytime she tried to clean it up, she slipped down. It was in her hair, her clothing and all over the walls. We all stood, helpless to help her, outside the radius of egg mess. Finally when she tried to stand up holding onto the cart, she lost balance and went down again, this time bringing everything down with her.
She gave up.
She laid back and laughed.
A huge laugh. A from the fingertips, from the toes, laugh. Laughter filled the institution hallways, it coloured the air with humour, it was loud enough to crack faces, it was warm enough to melt frost. Then we all laughed. Pale imitations of the real thing, but we laughed. We who lived free laughed our restrained appropriate laughs while she who lived abandoned and caged - laughed large. At least she was left with an uncaged laugh.
I want to laugh more.
I want to have a pull a muscle laugh.
I want my laugh back.
But if I can't have that ... I'll settle for hearing that laugh, at least a few more times, in my life.