At 25 years old, Dave had found happiness. It was a tremendous discovery, he felt, but if pressed he could not tell how or where he had found it. When he was asked, he found himself giving cryptic answers which, though others might not have realized it, were absolutely true. “Happiness is at the bottom of this coffee mug,” he’d say, or “Happiness is on the other side of that building.” On the rare occasions that people would take his advice, they seemed to be disappointed, but this he couldn’t understand – he’d told them exactly where to look for happiness, but they couldn’t find it. Yet there it was!
He talked about it like it was something he could see, which was even more confusing to his close friends. “What does it look like?” his roommate Alice asked him once. Dave shrugged. “It’s hiding behind that couch in the living room,” he replied, “Why don’t you go look and tell me? I’ll even help you move it.” He laughed, and in his laugh was all the evidence Alice needed to believe that he really had discovered what she was beginning to think of more and more as a painfully shy, fuzzy little creature.
They pulled the couch out, and the smile that had marked Dave’s face since that fateful day grew even wider. “Aha!” he cried.
“You see it?”
“Don’t you? Tell me what you see.”
“I see $.27, two dust bunnies, and that shot glass we lost before.”
“Hey, don’t laugh at me! What do you see?”
“I see some change, some dust, a shot glass, and happiness.”
Alice was getting frustrated. “How do you know you’re not hallucinating it?”
His laugh was even louder and longer. It was robust, and seemed somehow to contain millennia of unadulterated mirth, which is far too many years to cram into the laugh of one barely a quarter of a century old. “Trust me, I know. There’s nothing to hallucinate.”
“You mean it’s invisible?”
“No, but it’s hard to describe. Sort of like, if there was such a color as greenish-orange, and it had wings.”
“I don’t get you.”
“It’s a metaphor, that’s not what it’s really like. Well, not quite anyway. I told you it was hard to describe.”
“This isn’t one of those mystic Zen things, is it? Like, happiness is where you find it?”
“Of course happiness is where you find it, if it wasn’t there then you couldn’t find it, could you?”
“Well, where is it? I don’t see it.”
He gestured with his eyes.
“I know it’s behind the couch, but can you point to it?”
“Oh, it’s not there anymore. You scared it off. Didn’t you see it run into the kitchen? It’s probably curled up behind the trash – I can’t figure out why it likes that spot so much – or maybe it’s in the cupboard. It’s surprised me a couple of times in there.”
Alice was thoroughly exasperated. “Well, I have to go to work. Have fun with your figment.”
“Oh, Alice,” he said as his eyes (which seemed somehow deeper since his serendipity) turned slightly downward in a show of pity, a veneer of sorrow over his lately boundless joy, “Don’t be like that. Hey, Happiness! Come say goodbye to Alice!”
Nothing happened. There was no sound of feet, or breeze of motion, no adorable furball skittered into the room.
“Aw, isn’t that adorable?” Dave marveled. “It never fails to amaze me.”
“You’re crazy,” said Alice.
She sighed her goodbyes, but as she closed the door behind her she couldn’t help but smile.