In The Outsiders, what did Ponyboy mean when he said, "It was only yesterday...but yesterday was years ago. A lifetime ago"?
When the Greasers arrive at the vacant lot, they see Dally running from the opposite direction with the police chasing him. The police surround Dally, and he reaches into the waistband of his pants. Ponyboy recalls Dally telling him and Johnny that he has been carrying an unloaded gun. Pony then says,
"It was only yesterday that Dally had told Johnny and me that. But yesterday was years ago. A lifetime ago" (Hinton, 131).
Dally proceeds to raise the gun, and the police end up killing him. It is important to remember that Ponyboy has been telling the story in retrospect. The reason that he says that "yesterday was years ago," which feels like a "lifetime ago," is because so much has taken place since that conversation. From the time that Dally mentions he is carrying an unloaded gun, to the moment when he decides to pull it out in front of the police, Pony has run away, survived a church fire, and watched Johnny die. In Ponyboy's mind, this memory feels like it is from the distant past because so much has happened to him since Dally told him about the unloaded gun.
Johnny had just died. Ponyboy got a ride home because Dally had gotten so angry at Johnny's death that he took off running out of the hospital. When Ponyboy gets home the phone rings and it is Dally calling and asking for help. He said he had just robbed a store and the police were after him.
When they all get to the vacant lot, dally comes running in and reaches "a circle of light under the street lamp, and skidding to a halt, he turned and jerked a black object from his waist band. Ponyboy remember's Dally say, "I been carryin'a heater. It ain't loaded, but it sure does help in a bluff."
" I twas only yesterday that Dally had told Johnny and me that. But yesterday was years ago. A lifetime ago."
Ponyboy says this because he is feeling overwhelmed by the death of Johnny, what he and Johnny went through on Jay Mountain, and he is running a fever and is sick. He is talking about how life just seems to sneek up on you and knock you for a loop. His feeling of having lived a lifetime in just 24 hours.