Honestly the weirdest two hours of my life I award to Laughter Yoga. It started with games and fun activities, ones that school children could play until their parents yelled at them to come eat dinner. At first, the awkward tension was almost unbearable, all the first years were darting their eyes from one wall to the other, avoiding eye contact with the other strangers who stood in a less than perfect circle. Muted whispers and nervous giggles trailed through the air while the instructor tried to get us to actively participate. After fifteen minutes, I remember subtly sinking into my introverted shell. Then I thought “you came all the way to Ireland, from God damn New Hampshire. You came to do new things, make new friends, and to put yourself at the mercy of Europe. You can do this.”
So I played every game, sang, danced, held hands with multiple people, laughed, pretended to be a monkey, and scratched a man’s beard. I let go. I laughed. My friends left after an hour, but I stayed. We did some more exercises, then the laughter meditation came. We sat on the floor in a cluster, knee-to-knee. “Just start laughing and you will then start to real laugh,” the instructor said, ” and even if you don’t reach a real laugh…you only have to fake it for three minutes.” One older lady, Helena, was already in stitches, flopping onto the floor while her laughter rumbled through the silent room. Next, Tom started. His laughter was like deep bubbles bursting in the air almost too funny to believe. I started laughing at his belly roar, which was surprisingly relieving. My hands shot up to cover my mouth. I couldn’t stop laughing the girl next to me joined in and before I knew it, the whole room was a laughing orchestra. Even the freshmen had opened up and were laughing with us.
The instructor tried leading us through Shavasana, but we were all to worked up to meditate. Small giggles would spark the whole room to break out in laughter again. I was genuinely happy and uplifted. After the class ended, I put my name down to come back next week.
When the beer comes in pints, I leave the pubs light as ever. My feet hovering over the broken sidewalks. When I arrived home, my fingers stumble through my fleece pockets yearning for those god damn keys. Once through the first set of doors, it’s time to press the latch to release me into my humble abode. With all the recent giggles about accents, new Irish friends, drunken smiles, the pint glass I stole, and my blood saturated in Hoegaarden my natural instincts led me to round-house kick the latch.
Down fell the plastic handle as I scurried to pick up the pieces scattered across the ground. Hurriedly, I placed them near the door and bee-lined it to my apartment. The next morning I heard the maintenance man toying with something outside in between his frustrated swears. Only later did I see that he had jerry-rigged the latch with masking tape.
My golden, deer-head necklace now lays on the floor of a musty Galway club. The chain must have broke while twirling with an Irish man named Patty to the sweet beat of shitty 90’s pop. With all the dips, curves, and friction I don’t know why it came as a surprise when I lost it. May my American token be a small gift to a lovely lass who finds it next.
While roaming around the cobblestone streets of Galway, my caffeine high wore off and I was in great need of another fix. We stopped at the Coffee Express, the words hopping off my tongue, “chocolate and mint Americano, hot”. We sat next to a wacky couple, most likely drunk at 2 in the afternoon. The woman, stumbling and falling over her beau, curly hair flying in every direction; she appeared to be in a deep gossip conversation which we had just rudely interrupted. The man wore green eyeliner, hair bleached an unnatural blonde, his knuckles and arms riddled with tattoos, and rocked a pair of tight leather pants; a trashy version of Billy Joe Armstrong. He was calling out to people he knew on the street, “Jack”.
Over strolled an older man in his 80s wearing a long wool coat and a dapper hat. His eyes sunken with age and grey hair peeked out from behind his cloth fedora. He slowly drew out the chair that was next to Cynthia, who instantly fell silent, eyes shifting back and forth from Jack to Pam and I. The two were nearly touching he sat so close. He switched his attention from the Irish crack-heads to us. I took a huge gulp of coffee and patiently waited for the show to begin.
“How about Syria,” He muttered. His voice had this peculiar quality of being about the amplitude of a whisper and his rate fluxed from being unhurried to impossibly slow. After a long, cringing pause I responded, “It’s scary.”
“Let me give you some advice…” He began. We leaned in a bit, stretching the abilities of our ears. His lips puttered up and down, chatting away, but I could not hear a thing. His blue eyes looked through my naive hazel one and into the essence of my existence. I caught bits of what he spoke of, “…a book…at 17, then at 23, and again at 30.”
“Oh, what book are you reading,” I blindly queried.
“It’s called life….I’m living it.” Then he went off again on a silent lecture, “never know… for the Irish boys….call your mother…tears ….a professor for a long time…and then the war.” This man was the definition of wisdom and he lassoed us in, we grasped at every word we could make out. Twenty minutes passed and we sat there in full immobility.
“But, enjoy your stay in Ireland.” He got up, tipped his hat to us and left. We all sat there dumbfounded, looks of bewilderment smacked on our faces. Afterwards, I could not shake this feeling that Jack had just disclosed to us the secret of life, and we missed it all.