Paying Homage to Kurt Vonnegut

To Billy Pilgrim

Sometimes, a book report doesn't quite cover it.

38
views

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

I never met him, but I may as well have. Each word he penned is a word I now breathe, the oxygen in the mitochondria of the cells in my fingers, accepting electrons, becoming water, and allowing for the creation of the adenosine triphosphate I now use to type.

My fondness began with a single story, about aliens and time travel and an ordinary man named Billy Pilgrim. And I want to share it.

A book report would never suffice. So I've written a eulogy for my good friend, Billy.

...

People,

I got a call a couple of days ago that Billy Pilgrim was dead. So it goes. It was his daughter, Barbara. She was in tears. She was relieved. She told me she needed someone to give a eulogy at the funeral. She said it should be one of Billy's friends. Billy only had a handful of war buddies, though, and none of his war buddies had dignity.

Bernard V. O'Hare declined, and Roland Weary is dead. So it goes. Mr. Edgar Derby is dead too. So it goes. Paul Lazzaro just laughed. Paul Lazzaro is always laughing. Paul Lazzaro only ever stops laughing in the shower, when an invisible hand suffocates him with hot water.

So it goes...

Barbara said her phone smelled, and she said it only started to smell when she called me. My dog heard her say this, looked up at me, hid under my bed. I couldn't smell a thing - alcohol dulls the senses - but I knew what the smell was. It was mustard gas and roses.

She told me Billy Pilgrim had died. So it goes.

She told me how Billy Pilgrim died. He was giving a speech. Then he was shot. So it goes.

I am giving a speech during his funeral. Maybe he will give his speech during mine. Maybe he will be shot during mine. So it goes.

And so on.

You are here because you loved Billy Pilgrim, and maybe he loved you too. I loved Billy Pilgrim.

Billy Pilgrim held a gun the way I hold a pencil. The people loved him for it. He held it because it was there. The people believed he wanted to hold a gun, that he held a gun for them, that there was purpose behind that gun. They believed that he walked better when he held a gun. I knew Billy Pilgrim, the people didn't.

Billy would have walked just as easily on the moon as he did holding a gun. I suppose he would need a coat, though no one talks about the temperature of the moon.

I knew Billy Pilgrim. Billy Pilgrim was drowning for most of his life, but he called it swimming. He had been thrown into a river - and make no mistake, he knew it was a river - but he treated it like a meat cellar. And in that meat cellar he was barefoot, and he knew he was barefoot, and his feet were blue, like blueberries, and ivory, like milk. He was allergic to blueberries; there isn't much flavor in milk.

Billy Pilgrim only ever left that meat cellar at night, when he cried, or when he remembered a barbershop quartet of moonmen with open mouths. or when he rubbed his thumbs over old dentures. He knew he was drowning. And I loved him for that.

I got a package in the mail that smelled like mustard gas and roses. Billy had already been shot. So it goes. It contained a luftwaffe sabre, a diamond ring and spectacles. I had given Billy those spectacles. It contained a novel, a retelling of Cinderella by a peculiar author using peculiar words. It contained vitamins, and it contained a spoon. It contained a two carat diamond and a partial denture. I gave the diamond to Barbera. I kept the denture.

Sorry if any of your stuff is missing.

And it contained a letter to addressed to "Mr. Vonnegut". I thought it was meant for my father, but it wasn't. It praised my writing, and yours, too, Mr. Trout. It praised our pencils. It must have been written by a fourteen year old. Or myself. I threw it away.



The people didn't know Billy Pilgrim. They'd believe anything.

I have many memories of Billy Pilgrim. He never pretended to grow up, but he did marry a woman. And he had a little girl, and he had a little boy.

He was thrown into a war he had no part in, and he was just there. He is always there, too, people, make no mistake. He is always crying.

Right now he is sitting, staring at the prayer on the wall of his practice through a jade green owl.

"God Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things that I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference".

Our Tralfamadorian prophet, Billy Pilgrim, accepted everything.

Except when he didn't.

I accept that Billy Pilgrim is not sleeping. I accept that Billy Pilgrim is dead. He is as dead as Jesus Christ himself, and he is as dead as the champagne from my wedding. He will not be giving his speech during my funeral.

I accept that Billy Pilgrim had to walk on the moon, that he walked on the moon no easier than he walked through the meat cellar and no easier than he ran, that he survived the war and Mr. Edgar Derby did not.

What I do not accept is that you can accept Billy's life. Billy's life was not grand, and it was not marvelous. Billy acted in every scene. He only ever improvised once, and it turned him into a pillar of salt.

I cannot accept that he eagerly accepted everything, that he lived on an earth as inhuman as a Tralfamadorian zoo.

We cannot ungrow. We cannot unage. We cannot undo. What's done, is done.

So accept it, people. Move on, if you need to.

But find the courage to change the current later on down the river, and climb out. It is a river, mind you, not a meat cellar.

If you find yourself a pillar of salt when you climb out, spoon some syrup, and dive back in.

And do it again.

Because you can, people.

I came forward today, and I spoke today. Because you loved Billy Pilgrim, and maybe he loved you.

I loved Billy Pilgrim.

And I never spoke a word to him.


Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969. Print

Popular Right Now

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
1713602
views

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Lazy Girl's Guide To The Gym

Also, everything else you should know if you're a slightly out-of-shape girl (like me).

358
views

With my freshman year coming to an end, I realized a lot of things. I made new friends, I found new hobbies, and I learned a lot of lessons. One of them being that the "Freshman 15" is very real and very scary.

While my friends and family have attempted multiple times to convince me that I'm just being dramatic (I am), I still want to make a change in my lifestyle or I will, in all seriousness, be on track to the "Sophomore 20".

Here is a list of my best gym and healthy lifestyle tips that I am slowly attempting to live by this summer in order to resurrect Emily's 18-year-old body and health.

1. Increase water intake.

2. Find a gym buddy.

3. Start off with cardio.

4. Don't stop on your cardio until you're dripping in sweat.

5. Chug a LOT of water an hour before the gym.

Do not do it right before, or you will be in pain.

6. Eat light beforehand but just enough to hold you over. 

7. Plan out what your routine will be BEFORE you get there.

My routine: Elliptical for a mile, Stairmaster for 10 minutes, ab HIIT workout for 10 minutes, 5 more minutes on Stairmaster.

8. Buy healthy foods while you're feeling motivated.

9. Find a gym that isn't too far from your house. 

10. Don't get mad at yourself if you don't see results in a day.

I know this is a hard one.

11. Try fitness classes. 

Related Content

Facebook Comments