When was the last time you laughed hysterically? Not just laughing hard, but uncontrollable, difficult to breathe, tears and snot rolling down your face, completely unable to stop yourself laughter? It’s cathartic, but I’m not sure it’s healthy. I laugh a lot. I know a lot of funny people. I’ve been told I can be a funny people. But it’s been a long time since I was out of control hysterical.
This may not be the last time this happened to me, but it was certainly the worst. Best? Most memorable.
It was the end of my first semester of grad school, without a doubt the most difficult academic semester of my life. I think grad schools plan it that way in order to weed out the people who aren’t going to make it early. I’ve always been a pretty solid B student without having to work very hard. As a result I have crap study skills. I can get really motivated when it’s something I’m interested in, but have little patience for the topics I’m not. That semester was full of things I just didn’t care very much about. That same fall Fred and I had signed a contract to produce our first comic book, which ended up never appearing, so that was taking up a lot of my time and attention. That alone should have clued me in on where my actual priorities were.
Anyway, even though I had dropped a class in Research Statistics to be taken again later, I still had four final exams and a major paper due the last week of class. The story I have told for years is that I got about eight hours sleep in the course of four days. That seems unlikely to me now, but nevertheless, I didn’t get much sleep. I was living on caffeine. The area I lived in was a test market for Jolt Cola (‟All the sugar and twice the caffeine!”). My routine for those four days was a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a can of Jolt, repeat. There’s a reason I wasn’t sleeping.
The day came when we were all finished. It was the day before we were all leaving for Christmas break. A bunch of us were hanging out at the apartment, trying chill and relax and have fun before we left. I should have taken the opportunity to crash but I was really wired. Our friend Holly made chocolate fudge. I want to go on record by saying it was possibly the worst fudge in the history of fudge. We all thought so. Holly thought so. Somehow it seemed like a really good idea that instead of eating it we should wad it up into a ball and toss it around the living room.
Based on my reaction, this must have been the funniest thing to ever happen. Ever. Anywhere. Another friend was there, reading quietly on the couch, somehow completely oblivious to our shenanigans. At one point the fudge landed in his lap. He held it up like it was an alien artifact. The look on his face was the final straw for my sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled brain. I lost it. Completely, rolled up in a ball on the floor, shivering, uncontrollable, difficult to breathe, tears and snot rolling down my face, completely unable to stop myself from laughing.
Every time I thought I was getting some semblance of control, I would look up and lose it again. I eventually made it to my bedroom, closed the door, turned out the light and curled up on my bed, still shaking in the throes of mirth. It took awhile, but I got my shit together and went back to join the others.
Where I immediately collapsed to the floor again, all composure gone.
By this time my friends were getting seriously worried about me. I think I may have been on the verge of some kind of breakdown. Miriam came to my rescue. I was still reeling, but she took my arm, grabbed our coats and made me walk her back to her dorm. I think the combination of the cold December air and her calm presence may have saved my sanity that night.
There are times I feel like it’s been way too long since I have indulged in genuine hilarity. I like to laugh until I ache, especially in the company of good friends. I never want to be that out of control again.
No more fudge for me.