Last week, I didn’t get chills. But I did have a belly laugh.
The laughter that ensues in small rooms, in the intimate hours after dark. The laughter that brings tears to your eyes and makes your stomach ache. The laughter that is funny precisely because you laugh when you aren’t supposed to be laughing.
My friends and I started Mystic Pizza early so we could go to bed early. Of course, that is not what happened, but it was an honest effort. We were seated with the title sequence rolling and brownies in the oven by 7:45 p.m., and proud of ourselves for it.
Throughout the night a friend or two would open our door, say hello, stay to watch for a few minutes, then go off to their homework and meetings and other Sunday night shenanigans.
We never paused—not once!—not even when the brownies were ready. We had worked too hard to stay on schedule to let anything get us off track. It had been a long weekend and we were all a little sleep-deprived. As you can see, we are responsible college students, just like you.
I don’t even know how it started.
The movie had ended, and the screen displayed its next suggestion as we lounged on my bed, slouched against the wall and each other. And before I knew it, I couldn’t stop laughing.
It must’ve been a scene or two from the end of the movie that got us going. Perhaps a recounting of something that had happened earlier in the day. Or maybe a line from a post recently circling the internet. I find that when it’s a good belly laugh, you never really know how itstarts, all you know is it just keeps coming.
I remember my first one. I was young, staying the night at my cousins’ house while my parents and my aunt and uncle were out to dinner. We had probably ordered pizza and watched some animated movie before the babysitter put us to bed at the late-night hour of 8:30pm.
Their first mistake was putting us all in the same room.
It started with a quiet giggle, muffled under someone’s covers. And then whispered words, a reference to earlier in the night. And soon enough we were bursting at the seams with that uncontrollable laughter. In my memory, the babysitter swung the door open, and we all went dead quiet.
She said something along the lines of “Shouldn’t you be asleep?” Sounding stern to us but also probably enjoying our sheepishness.
We nodded, cheeks and ears burning bright red and our lips squeezed shut. She said good night again, before gently closing the door.
The minute it clicked into place, the giggles came back, and then the laughter, bursting from our mouths like a fire hose. Clutching our sides, rolling in our beds until the blankets fell off, frantically wiping tears from our eyes and covering our mouths to try to hold it in. It’s always when you most want it to stop that it will just keep coming. A good belly laugh will let you know when it’s time to stop. Otherwise, you just have to ride it out.
My friends and I only stayed up another half hour after the movie was over. But laughing for thirty minutes straight was exactly what we needed. Grasping at each other’s hands and limbs, gasping for breath between bouts, doubled over ourselves, sliding gradually off the bed.
I hope this week, a good belly laugh finds its way to you like it found its way to me. It’s not the chills, but it’s just as important.