Laugh It Up
Summary – There was a reason why Patrick always liked to make people laugh, most didn’t understand it was a coping mechanism.
Patrick Jackson-McGuire loved to laugh.
Not only did he love to laugh, but he liked to make other people laugh. He saw things in ways that were comical and viewed life to be something to live rather than agonize about and tried to have as much fun as possible. However, there was the saying ‘those who laugh the hardest are often the most unhappy’ and he did believe it, he was one of those that fell under that trope, all because he still hadn’t gotten over the tragedy that had befallen his family ten years before, when he was just seven years old.
How do seven year olds deal with their parents dying so early in life?
Most would cry, live life in fear thinking it’d happen to them as well, maybe pull in on himself, and after he had done all of that, he decided to live his life for his parents. So he decided to work to make himself and other people happy and what better way to do that than by laughter? When someone was down, there he was to make funny faces, crack jokes, and just be plain ridiculous until they finally smiled. Even if it was a hint of a smile when tears still slid like crystals down their cheeks, he considered it a job well done.
However one day he didn’t feel like laughing.
He didn’t feel like doing anything other than sitting at the picnic table set up in his backyard by the back patio and stare into the fire that blazed in the fire pit. The smoke expanding from the crackling, dancing flames swirled into the sky until it matched the colorless palette the bright stars dotted. Memories of that horrific night penetrated his mind’s eye, taking him away from the backyard in the cool summer night to the intense hell he had managed to escape from when he was just seven years old. He could still hear the crackling and roaring of that fire and could recount the cold, snakelike fear he harbored while hiding under his bed before he managed the courage and strength to grab his twin brother and race out of the house with his other siblings. Unfortunately, at the time, he hadn’t known that his parents had looked for them before they left the house, doing whatever they could to find their six children before succumbing to smoke inhalation.
He remembered being in the hospital, getting treatment for his own burns, small scars he still held on his knees from the burning floor. He remembered having been told that his mother and father didn’t make it and not quite understanding what that meant, and he remembered seeing their lifeless bodies for the last time as a very kind hospital nurse had allowed him and his siblings the chance to say goodbye before the bodies were to be prepped before the funeral. He remembered all of that and continued to keep it inside him, a burning bolt of lightning that would strike him whenever the memory would cross his mind at the most inopportune times.
But now, sitting in the backyard, listening to the crickets chirp around him, watching the fire was kind of cathartic. Watching the exact thing that had caused his family so much pain, what caused him to be afraid of certain circumstances every now and then. He still couldn’t sit in a Japanese restaurant and have things cooked right in front of him without feeling a slight jolt of fear when the flames erupted. However, it was the only way he could feel he was still connected towards his parents at that moment in time; lest he was sure to allow his emotions to take over with dire consequences.
The pain he was feeling he couldn’t help but internalize, he had learned the tactic growing up under an abusive foster father. And whilst Robert Jackson—the man that just so happened to have the same last name as him and his brothers and sisters—had been sent to jail about three years before and he and his siblings had been adopted by their friend Ronan McGuire, he still showed up in their lives in many different ways. Number one being the physical damage he had done to them, the second being the psychological damage that had been made and the third being that he had learned to use his laughter to cover things up so much that he felt nothing but hurt inside.
Turning away from the fire pit, Patrick glanced over his shoulder and spotted his girlfriend, Katie, walking over to him. She chewed her lower lip as she approached, not sure how to start the conversation. He didn't mind, it was hard to think about.
The wooden table creaked underneath Katie’s weight as she sank onto the bench next to him. She gently, nervously flapped the sleeves of her sweatshirt over her hands. “I heard about your grandfather,” she said quietly. “How’s he doing?”
Patrick shrugged. “As well as expected, I reckon,” he replied, his voice tinged with his Australian accent. “I just…I wish we could be there, though. Daddy Teak hates hospitals.” He chuckled, eyebrows rising slightly. “Not as much as we do, but considering how old he is he’d rather just go when the time is right.” He sat up straight and spoke in a lower, slightly raspy voice that was reminiscent to his grandfather, Teak Jackson. “Son, I’m going to tell you something that I reckon a lot of people don’t like to say; I’m old. And when you get old there’s nowhere else for you to go but down, so why would I want to spend so much time with doctors?”
Katie giggled quietly.
“Should’ve known it would be what would eventually send him to the hospital with a bad heart attack,” Patrick continued. “In fact, I’m surprised that he never got it from laughing so much.”
“He likes to laugh?” Katie pressed.
She knew this was hard for him to talk about. He rarely, if ever spoke about his family other than his eldest brother Julius, his wife Brittany, his older twin sisters Riley and Rhuben, his own twin brother Noah, and his baby brother Sydney. Only because of all of the pain they had gone through from their parents’ death when the eldest was eleven and the youngest was a one year old, to their constant years of abuse from the hands of a foster parent that had exploited their musical ability as long as he could.
“Daddy Teak loves to laugh,” Patrick agreed. “He can be very blunt, yeah, but not in an offensive way; in a very humorous way. He hates to see someone upset or frown or cry so he always tries his hardest to make that person happy.”
Katie hesitated for a moment before reaching out and grabbing onto his hand. Things were a bit strange between the two of them. They were each other’s first boyfriend and girlfriend, having started dating a couple of months before. They hadn’t even had their first kiss yet, and now she was to try and comfort him when he had just gotten the news that his grandfather was in the hospital for a large heart attack. She wasn’t even sure how she would want to be comforted at a moment like this. Thankfully both sets of her grandparents were healthy and had never had anything more than a cold.
But this was different, Patrick was super close to his family, protective of his siblings, and enjoyed the times he could be back in his home country of Australia. But being out in Los Angeles to work on with his band—his brothers and sisters—for the American market while his grandfather was back in an Australian hospital possibly dying, it had to be hard.
Patrick’s freehand started to rapidly drum up and down on the table top, his fingernails clacking against the wood, piercing the air. He did that for a few moments before bringing his hand up to run through his black hair that fell to his shoulders. The tips dyed blond fell in front of his eyes and he shook his head to move it out of the way.
A glare graced his face.
What was it about him that caused so much pain to follow him around? Was it because he tried to laugh thing off? To make sure that he only focused on the positivity that life had to show him? Was that such a bad thing? It was immensely better than constantly whining—or as he said, whinging—and complaining about things that could or couldn’t be changed. In fact, instead of complaining about the pain and torture that he had been put through by Robert, he focused on making the life of his brothers and sisters better by making them laugh. So he adopted the persona of being a bit slow, to not completely understand what was going on with some things, as a way to be funny.
He made jokes of his parents’ death, he joked about the years of abuse he had gone through, in fact, he joked so much that he had never really had an honest conversation about how he felt deep down. And now that Daddy Teak was in the hospital, he felt like he was seconds away from exploding. Daddy Teak had always been the one that helped him through the pain he had been feeling as he had lost his only son and daughter-in-law, and was gutted to find out that he and his wife couldn’t adopt the six siblings all because they were deemed too old to care for six children. They had only managed to get Julius in their custody and the other five had been lost to the system and through the subsequent abuse that came afterward.
Every time they were able to return to Australia, the first thing Patrick wanted to do was to go to their grandparents’ house to see Daddy Teak, to know what sort of jokes he had accumulated since the last time they had spoken on the phone. And in many ways Daddy Teak was exactly like his son, Patrick’s father, Reed. They both lived life t the fullest and it was something that Patrick had gained from his late father, as well as his lopsided smile. Daddy Teak being the closest thing he could get to his own father back, the two bonded over the loss of the man that linked them together.
“It just sucks!” Patrick let go of Katie’s hand and ran them over his face, pushing his glasses aside. He rubbed at his blue eyes before taking off his glasses and dropping them onto the table top. He then turned and looked at Katie, though his eyes were squinted, struggling to see her hazel ones. “Why did he have to be put in the hospital? He’s not that old and now who knows how much time he had left?” He clenched his hands into fists. “I don’t think I can stand the idea of losing anyone else. My Mum and Dad died when I was bloody seven years old. Next year I turn eighteen, they should be getting ready to go to my graduation. But now, they’re six feet underground, yeah, and my grandfather is in the hospital about twelve thousand kilometers away…about seven thousand miles away.”
“Pat,” Katie said.
“Yes, I can count, I only dye my hair blond, I’m not an actual blond,” Patrick remarked with a light laugh.
Katie frowned. “That’s not funny.”
“It’s very funny, actually,” He contradicted. “About as funny as the fact that I can go on stage every night and perform in front of hundreds upon thousands of people like I don’t have a care in the world when deep inside I feel like I’m falling apart. But no one seems to notice, I’m labeled as ‘the funny one’ or ‘the jokester’ and that’s all people see me as.”
He sniffed loudly and picked up his glasses, placing them on his face once more. Turning to Katie, he blinked then smiled a little. “I’m sorry; I didn't really take the chance to look at you. You look really cute today.”
Katie felt herself start to blush, which she always did whenever he gave her a compliment. She couldn’t help it, apart from being able to make her laugh himself—which she really enjoyed—he always managed to make her blush from a quick compliment or just from smiling at her.
She tucked her hair behind her ear, “Thanks, Pat,” she said honestly before frowning a little. She squeezed his hand and he squeezed back, pulling her closer towards him, leaning down and resting his forehead against her shoulder. Katie reached up with her free hand and gently rubbed his back. “And, I know things are hard for you right now, but not every bad thing comes your way.”
Patrick’s snort was muffled by her shoulder. “Then I must be in the wrong lane because that’s exactly what’s happening, yeah?”
Katie laughed. She couldn’t help it, laughter really was his forte but what really broke her heart about it was that she knew he was doing his best not to break down. His breath was shuddering as he breathed in and he trembled against her, despite how stiffly he was trying to hold his body to keep from revealing his true emotions. “That doesn’t mean you have to sabotage yourself, does it?”
“Far out!” Patrick pushed himself away from Katie and leapt up from the picnic table so quickly he almost fell over. He caught his balance and backed away from his girlfriend, who looked back at him in confusion and hurt. “I’m not sabotaging myself! I’m…I’m worried! I’m sick and tired of this happening! I’m…I’m hurt…” as soon as the word came out his resolve dropped and he started to laugh incredulously. “I’m hurt, I’m…I’m bloody scared. I’m such a boofhead. I, I can’t lose anyone else. I just can’t.”
Lashing out a hand, he punched the side of the house, letting out a quick and quiet, “fuck!” then started laughing once more.
His laughter continued for a few seconds before transcending into cries as tears fell down his cheeks.
Katie got up from the table and went over to Patrick, wrapping her arms around his waist. She could say that she understood how he felt; she had been devastated when her father had left her family leaving behind her mother and older brother. For the first couple of months she had been hurt and cried and waited for him to come back. As time went on she internalized her hurt until she couldn’t remember what life was like with him around and masked it, becoming independent and able to function on her own.
And yet, while she knew she could tell him those things that she knew how he felt, she couldn’t because they weren’t the same and she couldn’t even begin to imagine the kind of pain that he had managed to hide with his smile and laughter all these years.
She was glad he wasn’t laughing anymore.