Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Billy might be sitting next to you

So I just finished Slaughterhouse Five and it got me thinking. I read the last page on Bart and started to think about how Vonnegut has so accurately described the mystery of seemingly mysterious people one encounters in public. We don't know the person sitting next to us on the 7:47 am Westbound train... they're certainly not only what we've labeled them in our heads: "guy wearing khakis who stares at people a little too long." They're something else entirely and we have no idea what that really is. He might really be "guy who loves bathroom humor and weirds out his housemates, because hey- each time he takes out the trash there's like eight empty bags of cheez-its in the dumpster. He never uses the kitchen, does he only live on cheez-its?"
Maybe this guy has a shoe fetish. Maybe he helps old ladies cross the street. Maybe he kicks small animals when no one's looking and validates it to himself because he's unhappy with his job (or he ran out of cheez-its). The point is, Billy Pilgrim might be sitting right next to you and you'd better be ready for a strange answer when you ask him for directions. He may have just returned from planet Tralfamadore and he gets a tad disoriented after time-traveling...

"I look at you sometimes," said Valencia, "and I get a funny feeling that you're just full of secrets."
"I'm not," said Billy. This was a lie, of course. He hadn't told anybody about all the time-traveling he'd done, about Tralfamadore and so on.
"You must have secrets about the war. Or, not secrets, I guess, but things you don't want to talk about."
"I'm proud you were a soldier. Do you know that?"
"Was it awful?"
"Sometimes." A crazy thought now occurred to Billy. The truth of it startled him. It would make a good epitaph for Billy Pilgrim- and for me too.

-Slaughterhouse Five
Pg. 121

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