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The day Kurt Vonnegut died my friend Becca called me crying. “So it goes,” I said, and we chuckled in spite of our sadness. We had become devotees of Vonnegut since our introduction to Cat’s Cradle two years ago, and had long talked about holding an appreciation day at Kailua Beach. I suppose his death acted as a catalyst, for we finally pushed aside our societal obligations and planned what would become one of the best Saturdays of my life.
Becca and I walked down to the beach as the sun rose over the water. There was no satire in the silhouette of friendship we formed against the ocean, yet I felt that swimming was a Vonnegut-worthy way to begin our day. Sure, he poked fun at society and religion, and even laughed in the face of death, but I think that above all, Vonnegut valued love. And for me, love took the form of that moment. Friendship and swimming fill me with a happiness so complete that it needs no other fuel.
We could have swum all day, but our intellectual pursuits pressed us onward. After a quick snack of fresh mangos we made a pilgrimage to the library, where we checked out, with the exception of Cat’s Cradle, every Vonnegut novel that we had ever read and a few that we hadn’t. We scoured the library for that beloved book, but the catalog informed us that our search was futile as all twenty-three copies had gone ‘missing’. This aroused our suspicions, but we understood how the temptation of owning such a book could outweigh the moral obligations of returning it. Cat’s Cradle condenses humanity into precisely everything that I wish to fill my ponderings with: love, war, religion, truth, and the absurdity of life. Vonnegut poses more questions than he answers, but pondering answers isn’t half as fun or as satisfying as pondering questions anyway.
With stacks of thought-provokers up to our chins, we headed towards our favorite spot on the sand. As we flipped through Slaughterhouse Five, Becca and I considered the true importance of the phrase “So it goes.” Vonnegut’s passing was a great loss, but death, when boiled down to its essence, is just another form of change. Our entire world is temporary, but the writing that Vonnegut left behind has made him a little less so.
No other writer yet has made me so simultaneously disgusted and delighted with human existence, while making me laugh at both. As Becca and I tenderly closed the books and our day, our stomachs growled loudly. I marveled at the oddity, for I was unmistakably full.
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