Other people have nightmares. I have the sleepy haha's. I wake up laughing.
And I'm happy for it.
When my eyes open, I'm underneath the covers, sweating, panting, holding my sides. I can't stop. Don't want to. It helps me remember my father and everything else that's not funny.
I can laugh at my dreams, laugh at my pain, laugh at the others, the hell they have to go through, as if it's funny.
And it is.
When a friend, dying of cancer, sits in bed, in a hospital, his painful condition making me want to get up in the middle of the night, to drive over to his wife and kids—I laugh instead.
When he asks, What will my family do? How much will my son cry? When my heart stops will I feel a pain as great as the love I have for my boy? it's too funny—so I laugh like a man bleeding out onto his own hospital sheets, like there's life and death everywhere, all over me, and I can't stand how funny it is to look at.
It's the ridiculousness of death that helps the chortles turn to deep-bellied hysterics, and I laugh like I'm a ten-year-old boy.
I'm laughing, Dad, still.
Thanks to you.
I'm laughing like I've got nothing to lose, and, in a way, I don't. I lost it when you fell. Of course, I was a boy, and had—and still do have—lots in front of me, in terms of life, but what I mean, is that I lost it.
It was the will to take life as something controllable, something serious despite my inability to know where I was going, what would happen next.
It was my little feet pounding down a hiker's path somewhere in Pennsylvania.
It was following my mother away from where you'd fallen.
It was nothing more than that, so I laugh at it whenever I can, like it's the funniest part of life there is—death, dying, and the distance in between.
That sense of good respectable fear, it fell down a ravine and yelled, I think I'm going to make it at the top of its lungs, laughing all the way down.
And thank goodness.
It was an accident, tragic, an awful sight for any child, but you thought to make it funny—and I'm still smiling.
I cried for days, waking up each night, laughing my head off. Mom would run to my room, hold me, cry.
It hurt because I laughed, upset her because you fell into a ravine.
She never saw me cry though. I never let her, never wanted her to see my face full of hurt. You tried your best Dad to stop me from feeling that, so why let her see—why let you down—you'd already traveled so far, so fast, there wasn't much further you could go.
I couldn't do that to you, so I did my best to hide away what wasn't funny.
It was easy at night, when the dream would come. I'd walk behind you. You'd laugh, say, Come on guys, catch up, this is going to be great. Then you'd run ahead, push through dead bramble. And on the other side, the edge of the ravine. Every time. I'd watch you walk right off, see the terror on your face, the sudden realization there was nothing underneath you. I'd watch a face of fear change into something absurd, something funny, like what was happening was the funniest thing you'd ever thought of in some way.
You did that for me.
When you stepped out to where you were sure a path existed, you lead us to the edge of a ravine instead—and fell—but you made it alright.
You made it a joke—to stop us from crying.
But also because it was funny.
Because it was hilarious—and you knew it and so do I.
I think I'm going to make it—I yelled it too, but in my sleep, down the hall from mom alone in her room.
And it was terrible, funny, sad.
It was you, Dad.
When they found your body, I bet it looked hilarious. I mean, you fell into a ravine and giggled, why wouldn't you be a mess of a man, smiles and broken teeth, waiting for your boy at the bottom?
You must have understood life better than most, or at least you must have understood grief because when you fell, you ruined the whole concept of sadness and death.
You ruined tragedy.
There are theaters with dramatic masks out front, where one cries, the other laughs. Those places are wrong. They don't understand there's only one face and it can be found at the bottom of a ravine in Pennsylvania.
The night my mother came to my room and I cried as she held me against her shoulder—she laughed.
She told me, I think I'm going to make it. She said it through tears and chokes, and I cried so hard we were both wet and she laughed so hard we held each other, repeating your joke, a holy chant separating us from what had happened, keeping us safe at the top, far from the bottom.
If you fall by accident, and all the best falls are, yell something to make me laugh. Make it funny. Make it so incredibly hilarious that the children at the bottom won't know whether to run and scream or to laugh along with you.
My dad yelled, I think I'm going to make it, and I will, too, because I'm laughing in my sleep. All the time. Whenever I can. Because it's funny to fall when you're not looking, to fade too fast, down and away, toward the bottom. And when you do, I hope you're laughing.
And I hope everyone laughs at you—for as long as they can.
Christopher David DiCicco loves his wife and children—not writing minimalist stories. But he does. Work in Superstition Review, Bartleby Snopes, Nib, Litro Magazine, WhiskeyPaper, and other fine publications. Visit www.cddicicco.com for more published work.