“You guys want to play darts?” came from just over my shoulder, croaked out like Louis Armstrong singing while smoking four large cigars and forgetting to exhale.

We stopped talking, stopped drinking. It felt as if the entire bar had stopped, holding us in the eye of the tornado for a brief moment. We peeked over, turned around, leered and slunk to see the source of this most miraculous voice; a 105 pound blonde girl, no older than 22, leaning over the table behind us.

“Darts?” she croaked again.

There was no doubt it was her. We held our breaths, avoiding eye contact with each other for fear of explosive, inexplicable laughter. A pretty little blonde girl with a voice like liquid gravel. Like a chain smoking elderly woman singing an old country song no one asked to hear. Not being able to laugh was the hardest part; it always is. The longer you try to push the laugh deeper, the more likely something is going to work its way out. And then…

…someone slipped and out squeaked a ha. A tiny little ha, no more than a peep, but it was all it took to send us over. We laughed hard enough and for long enough that everyone in our vicinity certainly thought we were idiots, or drunk, or both. And we were both, really, but it didn’t matter. No doubt about it, top five all-time laugh. One of those ones where you feel like you might vomit the beer you just slugged down and don’t even care. The ones that make your abs and chest hurt so much that you’ll be sore the next day. Guttural, primal, unadulterated joy.

To this day I wonder about that girl with her Cher getting her throat stepped on-like voice every time I hear the word darts. Maybe she has gone on to be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation with her own private jet and monkey stewardesses that can make a perfect martini, but she will never outrun that voice. Not from me at least. And not from the memory of that laugh.


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