“Why do we tell actors to break a leg?”
“Because every play has a cast,”
“Why do bees have sticky hair?”
“Because they use honeycombs,”
“Cargo vroom vroom,”
Even though everyone else was giggling their heads off, I couldn’t let out a single ‘ha’.
I am not a laugher. I have never been a laugher, since childhood. I said my first words before my first smile, and my first steps before my first laugh. It’s not like I’m a cold solemn, melancholic robot. I just see the world through statistics, facts, and figures, and an all-round objective perspective. Ever since I was a little girl, I preferred the company of a calculator than a doll, lab coat than a dress, and a good science textbook than a fairy tale.
It’s what led to become one of the most prestigious quantum physicists in the state. My lean to the power of the mind than the influence of the heart. However, last week, I and my friends watched the comedy movie Witch Tales, that was apparently so funny, it had my friends laughing so hard, they were limping afterward. But me? I thought it was fun. Not funny. And I was the only thought so in that cackling cinema.
It’s not my fault. I love the things most simpletons love, sort of. I enjoy movies, going out with friends, and food just as much as the next person. But in between my head and my heart, my head will always have the upper hand. And that’s sometimes a problem with my social life. Especially around funny or feely things. In short, laughing just never came naturally to me.
So today, my friends Vera, Mick, and Drew, came to my apartment and made it their life mission to get a laugh out of me. I can power a Large Hadron Collider, build a synthetic positron in a laboratory, retrace exponential algorithms in quantum computers, but I can’t laugh.
No matter how hard my friends try, I can only find something amusing or interesting. Not funny. They’ve been trying all afternoon, and while they were in the hysterics at each other’s jokes and memes and stories, I just smiled sadly at how much fun they were having. Forget comical, it depressed me on how simpler things were for them.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am a robot. Though I think of myself as empathetic enough, emotions have never been my strong suit. Maybe it’s my point of view of the world. People can see a tree. I would see a photosynthesizing organism. I don’t mean to, but have always had such a perspective for most of my life it’s now subconscious and impulsive. It doesn’t exactly help me in the comedy department.
It’s Vera’s turn. The crew's now trying dad jokes. I have every belief this attempt will be just as futile.
“What do you call a pig that does karate? Pork chops!” She said, then sputtering afterwards.
Even though Drew and Mick were chuckling and shaking their heads at how 'corny' it was, Vera was disappointed that I didn’t. I didn’t get it. Pork chops were food. Karate was a martial art. Pigs were animals. I saw no relation between any of these things that was even remotely funny.
“Ace Winters, you either are growing up 50 years older than you ought to, or you are a robot.” She said, clapping a hand to my shoulder and giving me a condemning look.
I sighed. This was getting tiring. Sure, I love my friends to tithers, but I had way better things to do than to sit while they innately mocked me for my emotionlessness.
“We’ve been here forever, and I’m just about ready to piss on the next joke. It’s all hilarious! But you, Ace? Not even a tiny ‘hee-hee’” Mick said, laughing all the while.
He was right. And that was depressing. I squirmed uncomfortably. I never liked being called out for my shortcomings. And even though we were just chilling in my bedroom with lemonade, telling jokes and stories, I was feeling frustrated and kind of wanted to leave.
I got up, mumbling something about cross-checking some work, then went to my office.
Quantum physics is my life. I was twelve when I took algorithms, and devoted my studies for quantum science at fifteen. In my office, with my glass whiteboard and notes, I felt so much happier than I did all day, which was saying something, considering what I was doing.
I began idly redoing some work on the glass board for last week when Drew walked in. Of the rest of the crew, he and I got along best. Sure, he was a pilot, not a scientist, but our careers were most related out the crew. He was a timid, humble man. Kind, quiet, not shy, but rather enjoyed the company of his friends and the pleasure of his own singular hobbies and interests. Like me. He’s also quiet smart. More than that, he was intelligent. He could pursue and succeed a career in the sciences, if his passion wasn’t to be in the skies.
“What are you working on?” He asked, looking at my diagrams.
“Components of atoms. Quite basic, really,” I say, pausing my scribblings to look at him. He looked genuinely interested.
“Protons, neutrons and electrons?” He asked, brow tensing as he remembered.
My heart jumped. I loved it when anyone had the remotest interest in my field. “Exactly,” I said, mildly enthused.
“What are those?” He asked, pointing to the circles inside the subatomic particles connected by lines.
“Quarks. They make up subatomic particles, just like subatomic particles make up atoms.”
“And those? The tiny circles in the lines?” He asked, pointing again.
“Gluons. They make up the quarks.”
“Huh,” he said, contemplating. “Everything makes up everything, doesn’t it?” I looked at him, waiting for him to explain.
“Like, gluons make up quarks, and quarks make up protons, neutrons and electrons, and protons, neutrons and electrons make up atoms, and atoms make up matter.”
“Exactly it. Well said. I couldn’t have said it better myself.” I said proudly, beaming at him.
“So, technically, gluons make up everything in the end?” He asked.
“As far as we know. But yes, they do technically make up everything.” I replied.
Our conversation was cut short by the doorbell ringing.
“That’ll be my pizza,” He said, walking out.
I returned to my notes, immersing into them happily again. But it wasn’t even five minutes before I heard a heavy loud thump and a huge crash.
I went to doorway, with Vera and Mick, and saw Drew, splayed all over the floor, with pizza sauce and pizza toppings on his face and shirt, and the upturned pizza box on his chest.
“Are you okay?” Vera asked.
“I’m fine, just tripped,” He said, trying to wipe his face.
“Over what?” Mick said.
“A shoe or something.” He said with a frustrated tone. He removed the box of his shirt, frowning at the mess of sauce and pepperoni on his shirt.
“Man, my gluons are all over the place,” He mumbled, cleaning his shirt.
Mick and Vera look confused, but what happened to me was completely uncalled for. A series of geysers erupted in my chest. My cheeks flushed and my face twisted into something weird. I walk away, thinking there was something wrong with me.
But that’s just the beginning. A bright sunbeam seems to illuminate my chest. Gluons! My brain screams. A volcano of tremor-like noises erupt up my throat, and comes out like a guttural ‘har-her-ha’. I was shaking so much trying to contain myself, that I ended up leaning on the wall and sliding down to the floor.
The shaking didn't stop. All my muscles seem to convulse with every thought of Gluons!
My friends appear next to me.
“Is she okay?”
“Is she having a seizure?”
“Should I call an ambulance?”
The last voice is Drew’s. I remember his state and his words, and the volcanoes seemed to erupt out of my mouth. It was the craziest, most bewildering thing ever.
Now my friends are completely appalled and taken aback in sheer shock. I guffaw loudly, not caring anymore. The sunbeam in chest is so beautifully bright it was almost delirious. I chortle and chuckle and cackle, splitting my sides all the while. The sensible part of my brain chastises, thinking, Pull yourself together, Ace Lillian Winters! It’s not even funny! But I don’t care.
I’m laughing! Because it’s hilarious!!
The laughing finally subsides, and I sigh blissfully, leaning on the wall now. The entire time, my friends were shocked to silence. Drew, ironically, broke the silence.
“Now your gluons are all over the place,”
And the cycle repeats itself, only worse. Or better. There are tears streaming down my cheeks, my heart's racing so fast, and I slide down to the floor again, slapping the floor.
Mick laughs too. “Drew, call an ambulance. Apparently Ace has a terrible case of the giggles!”
There’s a hint of mockery in his voice, and that makes me want to pull myself together. But I can’t.
I glare at them all. “Make it stop,” I wheeze between laughs. Drew walks over and takes my arm, pulling me up.
After several deep breaths, the giggles subside again. But I’m still grinning from ear to ear.
“Do yall just realize what happened?” He said with awe in his voice.
When Vera and Mick still look confused, he snickered.
“Ace just laughed!” He said. Then he began laughing too, starting me up with him.
Then the four of us, right there on the hallway, laugh and laugh together, especially after Drew explains the gluons and our conversation.
I still don’t get most jokes and memes most people do. But when I do get them, (especially the science ones!) I never, ever stop laughing.