Billy Pilgrim Syndrome
From Slaughterhouse Five:
Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
Billy Pilgrim has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day.
While the message of my uncle’s speech was clear, I often find myself coming unstuck in time. I can rewind and reply parts of that December night in 2001 at will: “.terger ot sdael tsap eht ot gnikool; looking to the future leads to anxiety.”
I often recall times when I was careless with my words or actions. Some of these events took place in high school, and others were as recent as last month. When I relive them, the weight of my new insights and experiences provide no additional clarity, nor do they help me avoid that visceral sensation to cringe. All I can do is consider how I might have handled one of these situations differently without a clear understanding of how that might have affected the events that followed and led me to my present state of daydreaming.
My uncle started to speak about the need to live in the present and used the incident that had just taken place to illustrate his point. The initial shock started to fade; it had been planned.
I’d like to believe there’s more in my future than my past. When confronted with something new, I sometimes try to project into the future to see what might happen. She seems nice. Now we’re married. Now we’re not. I don’t need this! I’m happy where I am now. Has projecting caused me to miss opportunities before? I’m back in the past.
The glass looked awkward in my uncle’s hand. “Let me take that,” my great-uncle offered. The offer was declined, but my great-uncle was insistent. What followed was a bizarre struggle between them for control of the glass; my uncle was the victor.
There is enough to keep me busy in the present that time travel is unnecessary. Unlike Marty McFly, my excursions to the past have yet to produce any changes to the present, and my trips forward are to a future that never arrives. Still, it doesn’t take much for me to come unstuck.
My uncle let go of his grip on the glass, and we watched it shatter onto the floor. “What next?” he asked rhetorically.
Remember Sammy Jankis? This is a little different, but try to reorder the paragraphs chronologically.