Haunted By Vonnegut

Last week, my bff and I went to London to shop and eat and generally get the fuck out of Derby for a bit.

On Wednesday night, we ended up in my current fave hangout, VQ on Great Russell Street. It got to around 3am and, as things do, we got onto talking about Everett’s MWI of quantum theory. Neither of us are physicists so I apologise to any actual quantum scientists reading this: we were trying to grapple with the non-maths stuff, some of which is quite dark, like quantum immortality. (As an aside, did you know Everett was the father of E from Eels?)

I was trying to explain, as a corollary of squinting at this, that some theorists believe that linear time is an illusion or, perhaps more correctly, a construction of consciousness (for more on this read Julian Barbour’s End Of Time).

I will be trying to explain that I often come unstuck in time, experiencing multiple perspectives and, sometimes, perceptual frameworks that aren’t congruent with the fat, Indian, male sleeve I’m currently wearing.

So, unstuck in time… who else am I going to invoke than dear old Billy Pilgrim? But my mate hadn’t read Slaughterhouse-Five and so I resolved to buy it for her from Forbidden Planet.

Before proceeding, I should point out that I’m an utter atheist. (It’s kind of unavoidable if you’re a dialectical materialist.) Hopefully, I’m not the annoying, prosyletising kind but I will defend the secular and I do see anything spooky, like religion, astrology, homeopathy as irrational. So, I’m not spooky or a hippy or whatever. Though I am a time traveller from another universe, obviously.

The next day, we ended up in Tate Modern. After weeping at several pieces of art which we should not have wept at, we walked into a cafe desert where we saw this:

I prodded her and said, “Look! Kurt’s haunting us!” She was perplexed and slightly freaked-out. But only slightly because, hey, world-famous author, his most famous book. It’s not that unlikely. And the simplest explanation is the same as when you’re thinking of someone and then they text/ring you. All that’s happening there is that you don’t notice all the people you haven’t been thinking of when they ring/text. SCIENCE!

Later on, we headed to Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue. I beelined to the books. I found Vonnegut. YES!

Nope.

Not there. Loads of others, Cat’s Cradle, Sirens Of Titan, Breakfast Of Champions… no Slaughterhouse-Five.

I was crestfallen. It seemed we should find this book. But we didn’t. What kind of cheating tag was the universe playing? Bah.

Then, Friday, we were wasting time in a glacial St. Pancras, wheeling our droids from pointless shop to pointless shop. Easier for me than her because mine has inertial tunnelling and hers is some rustbucket with maglev. Eww. She spots a shop called Hatchard, I don’t know what the fuck it is, it looks a bit boring but she drags me in.

Of course, it’s a book shop. Of course I head to the ‘V’ section. Of course they have only one book from Vonnegut.

Of course, it’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Crowing, I buy it and present it to her on a bed of smug. She is more freaked out now because she chose the shop, she didn’t know it was a book shop, I didn’t want to go in. And there the book was, waiting patiently for us, tapping its nails against thin veneer. What kept you two??

We travel back to Derby, southernmost extent of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion (well, in this universe, in the one on page 21, he made it to Antwerp).

She goes home, I go home.

Yesterday, Sunday, she pops round to talk shite and text boys. We end up watching Linklater’s Boyhood whilst scoffing a Tennessee Ernie Ford quota of KFC.

And, of course, the boy has a conversation about Slaughterhouse-Five.

Of course.

So, in the space of four days, we’ve had not only three Vonnegut experiences, but three Slaughterhouse-Five experiences.

Like me, she routinely travels through nearby pages in the multiverse. Actually, that’s not true. She doesn’t realise that she travels but I’ve seen her do it many times, Cerenkov-gilded eyes blazing. Cups go missing in the interstices, socks divorced. But she’s uncomfortable with non-linear time and has so far been very wary of anyone from Tralfamadore, no matter how naked they are. Even when I tell her time travel is a savage cut, she’s at best disinterested and at worst bellicose.

Now, around about here, you’re probably expecting some great point to this rambling. But, you see, there isn’t one because this isn’t fiction. It happened. So, it’s simultaneously meaningless and dull. Y’know, like when someone tells you their dreams, in exacting and redundant detail.

But don’t worry, I’m not gonna say ‘so it goes.’