A Solitaire Game


  1. A game by definition, but its spirit is expressed in the name; Solitaire, solitary. No one else is needed. The only faces you stare at are royalty.
  1. Shuffling can almost be considered the most important part of the game. However I shuffle and how well I randomize the deck will determine how the cards lay themselves out. Past that, it is partially predetermined whether or not the puzzle can be solved. I give up my free will to the cards and only ask that they allow me to attempt to order them from the absurdity that I also have given them. I begin to lay the cards down, and the front-line reveals itself to me one at a time. Seven columns in total, a number that is considered lucky in Western culture. Once all the initial cards are set up, I stare at the given pieces. Before I make my own play, I must analyze the cards for any offered orderings.

    Sometimes I am lucky and I create stacks of five or six without even first drawing from my pile. What you are given is always random, but it is up to my mind to organize it; to fix the absurdity and put in order. Sometimes when I am about to draw, my eye spots a lonely Jack of Hearts next to a Ten of Clubs, almost slipping by. Underneath the Ten is a Black Jack that I cannot do anything with. Would it have mattered if that had slipped by eye and I had drawn anyway? They would not have moved, and I would have noticed it eventually. But will that Black Jack come into play? Is it beneficial to have moved that Ten, or will it hurt me in the long run? Each move and each standstill means the world, and at the same time is entirely useless and unnecessary, as though the cards are trapped in Schrödinger’s box.

  1. Once I start drawing cards from my own pile, three at a time, more and more cards get laid out on the floor. More and more pieces, each of which has at least two potential cards to lie atop of. I stare at the two colours, back and forth, attempting to create the simplest pattern with what I have been given. And as I draw from the deck, different combinations arise, filling in the links I had broken. Chance eases the spirits. I had little to no control over what I was given in my hand, and what I was given before me, and it is up to me to put them back together in order. But there is always the lingering knowledge of the possibility that it might be unsolvable. That no order can ever be restored, just because of the random arrangement of the cards.
  1. More and more openings and moves arise, but the question remains of whether or not it would be more beneficial for me to move them, or to let them be. It is impossible to know what the hidden card may be, and it might be more of an obstacle than an ally. Sometimes I must bring back an ordered card into the mess again because I had been overeager. But that’s part of the beauty. No matter how many cards I have put above in their rightful place, I can still pull them back and use them to order all the other cards. I stare at the Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs, and Spades and they stare back. I don’t even bother to draw from the deck. I know the few cards left in it, I know their order, and they are not necessary at this moment. I can only use the cards open to me to try and rearrange them so that the last hidden cards can be revealed. It is an ongoing puzzle, and the only thing I can do is stare at it, waiting for my mind to see it, even though I never know exactly what ‘it’ looks like. I need to find the empty spaces where two and two can go together, but I also need the timing to seeing the two and two at a moment when both are useful. The Three of Clubs is meaningless until I spy a bare Four. But it has just as much meaning as all the other cards simultaneously. I get to be the one to tell them how much value they have; it is all arbitrary until I make up my mind. That is the one aspect of control in the game.
  1. After all that, there are only two possible endings. The first option is that I am able to order the cards, suit by suit, in chronological order, leaving myself with four neat piles with four Kings looking back at me with approval. I will be satisfied that I have brought order to the cards, as opposed to the order that I cannot find in the world. Everything will be packed and perfect, until the next time I pick up the deck and mess it up once more. But I remain at ease because it will always be me destroying the order, and only when I want to. The second option is that I will fail. A crucial card will remain hidden under a useless one, and no amount of puzzling and rearranging will bring it to light. And unless I go back and analyze every one of my moves, and figure out how the cards were arranged in the deck, it is impossible to know whether or not I made an error somewhere, or if the initial order of the cards yielded an unsolvable puzzle to begin with. All I’m left with are the spare cards in my hand, staring all the open cards with such an intensity, as though I can force them to make sense, force them into order with my mind. If I concentrate enough maybe I can see something that I missed. But more often than not, nothing will have been missed. I am left with an unsolvable permutation of the cards. I have failed to put order back into the system and now all of these cards have lost their meaning. All that is left to do is to recollect them all, admit defeat, and shuffle them for another game. Another chance for order.