He awoke happy for the first time in longer than he could remember. It was an odd feeling. He likened it to turning on a faucet after the water has been shut off for a long time and all the water in the pipes has been replaced by air. You hear the air racing through the water lines as the pressure builds, the oncoming rush of water displacing the air. You feel it coming, the pressure building. And it comes in fits and starts, the first few drops arriving in sputtering explosive spurts, followed by the release of more trapped air being pushed relentlessly onward by a torrent. And tasting those first few succulent drops on a tongue so parched it feels like cotton wool, thick and heavy in your mouth. Then greedily lapping it up like a dog, gulping down lusty mouthfuls, eagerly drinking your fill. Then wetting your face and soaking your hair, your whole head, bathing yourself in the cool fountain of relief, as if you could absorb it by osmosis directly into the body, like a dry sponge rehydrating.
It wasn’t that he had even consciously realized that he had been unhappy. It wasn’t like depression, at least not in the clinical sense. It was just more of a sense of emptiness, ennui. Facing each day with a sense of dread. Waking up and going through the same routine day in and day out. But never really feeling anything at all. Until the day came when he woke up well before sunrise, peering out the bedroom window at the still-dark yard and soaking in the beauty of everything, feeling happy. Unable to get back to sleep because of the sheer sense of joy rushing through his veins like a narcotic.
Happiness is an infectious disease. Once you catch it you want to spread it to everyone. He remembered that Grant Lee Buffalo song Happiness, that says “happiness, if you find it share it with the rest of us.” Exactly. Once you find it you are obliged to share it. It’s selfish to do otherwise. He wished he had a spigot, like a beer tap, attached to his body so he could dispense it by the cupful, sharing it freely with one and all. He felt that his happiness cup runneth over. His drill had tapped into a gusher, the mother lode of happiness, and it rose through him and spilled all around, soaking him and everyone around him in a glowing pool of glee.
He went about everywhere doing his happy dance. Busting out his uncoordinated jerky moves to an inner soundtrack that only he could hear, not caring about his lack of coordination, his utter lack of groove. He bounced with each step, feeling a youthful energetic spring he hadn’t felt in ages. He whistled random snippets of whatever song stuck in his head, not failing to notice the bewildered and sometimes annoyed looks from bystanders whose chronic grumpiness they carried as a shield against wayward ricochets of happiness nuggets.
It wasn’t his first experience with happiness. He had felt it before. But it was always fleeting, ephemeral. Always slipping out of his grasp despite his best efforts to cling to it. The last time it had come to him he was sure it would last. That time it had been so strong, and felt so natural. But it too had slipped away. That’s when he had learned that happiness that came from outside sources couldn’t be depended upon to last. The only lasting well of happiness comes from within. If he drew too long from the tap of happiness of another person, that tap would inevitably run dry for both of them.
That night he went to bed happy, his mind filled with memories of daily gems. He hoped this time it would last. But he knew that even if it didn’t he would never again forget how it felt, and he would preserve some tiny remnant deep within him that he could draw upon whenever he felt parched, whenever the drought threatened to return.