by Kleitia Vaso

For a long time, the assumed but never elaborated strong link between these two opposing genres, comedy and tragedy, was somewhat elusive for me. Certainly, when people naturally mentioned them in the same breath, I nodded understandingly because, in theory, the connection made sense. I have a similar reaction to the taken-for-granted union between love and hate, a fusion so often used that we almost cannot utter or understand one without the other.  Yet, even the connection between the two most powerful emotions slips away from me as soon as I think it within my grasp. I see love and hate as distinct and separate from one another with one containing elements of the other and vice versa but as definitely not exchangeable. Fearfully, I trust that the experience of the close connection between them, which is the only real understanding we can have of anything, looms somewhere in the future.

The first relationship, the one between tragedy and comedy, was clarified for me during a beach vacation, a few years ago. For the first time in years, I was staying for longer than I knew what to do with so much time and beach. Indeed, I was so used to movement and so unused to staying in the same place that for the first time as an adult, I felt a kind of boredom that one only feels as a child when the days seem tedious and endless and the “adventures” and “freedom” of adulthood seem like they will never come. Thus, as a result of this half-childlike, half-catlike state, we began observing, initially with total indifference and later with a minimal kind of passive attention, the people vacationing at the same place as us. Gradually, our hard-to get-attention was won over by the strangest creature there, a weirdly shaped, half-boy, half-bird, who was positioned in the very borderline between the hideous and the extremely cute. His face was similar to a bird: with a beak-like nose, the requisite thick glasses which magnified his eyes and made them look out of proportion in his face, and a double, receding chin. His body was a weird combination of the waist and legs of a little girl and the upper body of a middle-aged Albanian man, droopy shoulders and big belly intact. He was usually on his own, of course, but he looked like he could entertain himself pretty well. When on a rare occasion, he would find friends and usually jump with them on a trampoline – where he caused them to jump really high as a result of his weight – we were almost happier than him even though we had the lurking suspicion that his opportunist friends were using his weight to soar higher and higher towards the sky. He was the spark for many ridiculous plans that J. and I thought up in order to combat our lack of mental activity; we dreamed of opening a camp for kids – who, in the future, would undoubtedly be tortured by stronger, better-looking children – to teach them how to be tough and combat meanness. This camp would have a curriculum of manipulation and motivational courses but one can see how this slightly-diabolical camp could quickly go awry if actualized and we swiftly abandoned this short-lived dream…

This description suffices for a background to the upcoming moment of epiphany. As we talked slightly away from our group, during the last day at the beach, specifically during the saddest time of the day for me, the sunset, which brings with it a heavy sadness and pressure, we saw the little boy for the very last time. At that particular moment, he had just gotten an ice cream and while he was eating it, he abruptly started running with tremendous joy towards no one in particular. While looking at these unrelated activities, where the boy seemed both extremely happy and lonely, I started laughing when, all of a sudden, without a transition period, I found myself crying. Later, someone offered the comical explanation that my reaction was provoked by the simultaneous similarity and difference between an Olympic athlete carrying the torch and the young weird-looking boy carrying his ice cream. I do not know why it happened but I’ve never had a similar reaction before or since. All I know is that this specific moment defined tragicomedy for me, the seamless flow of one extreme state into the equally opposite other.

by Kleitia Vaso