Fake laugh (once again)

This is what we do:

it’s what the distant relative you see at Coles does:

it’s what the overly nice one in your friend group does:

it’s what the nervous & desperate newcomer does:

it’s what the oddly thoughtful sibling who knows you’ve had a bad day & teacher who doesn’t quite get your joke does:

it’s what the phoney reality tv show host does:

not to mention the fake-it-till-you-make-it-feeling-out-of-place students —

not to mention your grandparents & their old, out-of-touch friends

not to mention the people who find your joke funny but haven’t laughed for a while

not to mention to your parent’s friend’s brother’s daughter who you call aunty and have to be polite to

& the shopkeeper & busdriver & doctor & really sweet worker who asks you if you like your jeans in the fitting rooms 

& your new debating coach over Zoom & you. When you don’t know what else to do

this is what they do:

notice: the indecisive dance of their fingers

notice: their awkward, apprehensive smile 

notice: thenot-so-subtle twitch of their nose

notice: the burning silence that brims on the edge of tongues

notice: the bittersweet tang to the air

notice: the hoarse and hollow chuckle; cough or a laugh?

notice: the remorseful cringe, the folding of their features

notice: the equally fake smile that follows

They regret it every time

But fake laugh nevertheless