Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
Bill has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between.
Billy is spastic in time, he has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren't necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.
So begins the story of Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. Billy moves back and forth through time, a metaphorical and literal pilgrim, landing at different Plymouth Rocks in his life. He's Vonnegut's surrogate, I think. A man haunted and haunting. A ghost and a ghost hunter. A reflection of his creator, and a creator of reflections.
Having just joined Facebook recently, I have been privy to my friends' timelines. I've ghosted back and forth through a few people's lives. It's both comforting and discomforting. I've come face-to-face with the dead, laughing and eating and dancing, completely unaware of their impending endings. And yesterday, one of my best friends played a voicemail that she's saved on her phone. My sister's voice, asking/telling my friend to perform a task. Like Billy Pilgrim, I felt a little unstuck in time listening to the message.
This time of year does this to me. Sort of shuttles me through doors of time. It is Friday night. Tomorrow morning, I will go to McDonald's for breakfast. It's a habit that started with my sister who died. Saturday morning, she would buy us all breakfast, and we would sit around a table, doing crossword puzzles and watching my kids play together. It was one of my sister's favorite moments of the week.
I think, as we get older, as losses stack up like pancakes, we all become Billy Pilgrims, visiting and revisiting births and deaths and marriages and graduations and births again. Over and over. It's impossible not to. We define ourselves by our experiences. At Christmas, after the turkey is eaten and presents opened, we sit around and become wistful, dreaming of Christmases past, just like the ones we used to know.
I have become part of the older generation. I'm the funny uncle that shows up with booze and makes spiked hot chocolate for all the adults. I have slipped from author to subject. I have become part of people's timelines. Stepped through the door into narrative. Years from now, I wonder how my daughter and son will remember me, what stories they will tell about me. I hope they will laugh. I hope any once upon a time that I'm a part of begins with a smile.
Saint Marty is grateful for Sausage McMuffins and crossword puzzles.