This morning was another which found me waking late, overheated and heavily dreaming in the flannel sheets, to the sound of a text coming through my phone. I’d forgotten, again, to switch off the ringer the night before.
“No!” I shouted at it, turning it off, then rolling back over, trying to hide but irreversibly, disappointingly, awake. The sound of rain outside and not enough light pushing through the semi-sheer curtains to announce even the smallest shred of sunshine. The pillow finally shaped perfectly for my resting head. What reason was there to get out of bed?
With my eyes closed, covers to my ears as I curved around the empty, cooling space next to me, I couldn’t think of any. As always though, my eyes betrayed me, and opened. I blinked at the edge of a dim white pillow, shadowed inside it’s case, three inches from my face.
Finally I rolled over and turned the phone back on. I answered the text, then looked at emails. Status updates. News. Photos of beaches and pets.
After I’d exhausted myself on the absorption of other people’s lives, I started playing solitaire. I am really good at solitaire. I tapped and dragged and eliminated, over and over, quickly ending one game and starting another the second I realized I wouldn’t win. My mind can either shut itself off or wander during solitaire and I’ll still win, most of the time.
I thought about games. With the recent holidays and many variations of family and friends around, an excess of games had been happening. Most of them were fun; all of them filled me with some level of anxiety. Not many people know this about me, but I am very competitive. I am also not a gracious loser, though I’ve learned to mask these things over the years because I am an adult who can function in the world. I assume my game problem is somehow related to being raised with four older brothers, then two younger brothers. Not-quite-middle-child syndrome with an extra dose of testosterone. I don’t like the way most games make me feel, which is to say, I really enjoy playing them and they are so much fun – which makes losing an extra sharp disappointment. Most often I politely decline when asked to join in a game if it involves, in even a small way, someone winning, and someone losing.
My mother taught me to play solitaire when I was in fourth grade and home for many weeks recovering from Toxoplasmosis. She also taught me to crochet, and recorded hundreds of video tapes so I could re-watch them any time I wanted. Solitary activities to keep me occupied, as it was winter and I couldn’t go outside to climb trees and catch snakes in the grass. Though admittedly I was too lethargic from my disease to do much more than move from my couch to the bed anyway.
As I got healthy and then older, I continued to play solitaire. I always carried cards with me in case I found myself waiting around somewhere. I played for hours on trains and at our kitchen table. I paused for two years when I was 14 and a boy caught my interest, until we broke up and I began playing again in earnest. My best friend would call and would hear the slapping of the cards in the background. “For god’s sake can you just get back together with him so you stop playing solitaire alone in your bedroom all the time?” She didn’t even like him. But she did love me and was, perhaps, worried.
“It’s a good distraction,” I told her. “It helps me not think about anything.”
This morning with my elbows bent by my sides and the covers up to my wrists I played eight rounds, twelve. Above my game the clock said 11:18 AM. I played another game. Finally my eyes got too buggy and I put the phone down on my chest, resting. The rain pattered outside, I could feel the cold seeping into the house from one of the cracks in one of the doors or one of the windows. I rolled over again and closed my eyes.