To Run From Solitude This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Up. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Up. Down. Down. Down. Down. Up. Down. Down. Down. Up. Down. Down. Up. Down. Up. Up.

As I quickly scan the cards to check for possible moves, I think about God. I think about all the things that I should be doing instead of sitting on my floor with a deck of cards in my hand thinking about God. I wonder whether I'm fated to win on my fifth or fifty-fifth hand. I wonder if I'll have to cheat. I wonder if I'll ever stop this cycle, if I'll ever find a more productive way to deal with life. I move the red queen onto the black king and flip another card. Up.

I've always believed in God. It's fate I've never been sure about. The idea of it not existing is almost as frightening as the possibility that it does. If I am fated to live a certain life, I question why I live it at all. If all is inevitable, then so are the consequences and, thus, there are no moral debates to be had since the decision is not ultimately in my hands anyway. If it is, though, then God does nothing. God merely watches us and hopes we live our lives according to his ideals and allows us to suffer the consequences upon death.

Only when playing Solitaire do I really think about fate and actually believe strongly in it. I tell myself that I will quit when I win. I tell myself that if I was meant to stop playing, I would win. Thus, I take the situation out of my own hands. I no longer need to consider having self-control and self-restraint or the motivation to do anything else. I leave it in the hands of God. If there are no more cards in my hand and all the others are facing up, then it has been fated for me to stop playing. If, on the other hand, I can make no more moves with the cards, I pick the cards up again. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Up. It's all in the hands of God.

I used to love doing my homework. I used to enjoy learning and having time to think. Now homework seems like shackles around my ankles and I do anything to escape. Solitaire is a great excuse because, by my logic, if I was really meant to be doing the work, I'd win quickly and would force myself to move on. Of course, even with all the practice, I never win quickly and my homework gathers dust on the bed.

Not only is Solitaire a great escape from homework, but I have learned that I can use it to get away from anything. When I'm having problems with my friends or family, I can throw all my thoughts and emotions into an emotionally draining game of Solitaire. If I have other responsibilities, like helping with dinner or returning phone calls, I pick up the cards and procrastinate further.

But most of all, I use Solitaire to escape from loneliness. I never play when I don't feel alone. That's not to say that I don't play when other people are around. I often find myself reaching for the deck in my pocket when I'm uncomfortable with my friends or when the only people around turn out not to really be my friends at all. Whether with others or not, whenever I feel alone or like an outsider, I grope for my cards. Right jacket pocket.

Society is so full of unspoken rules I spend too much time thinking about and not enough time following or breaking, that I question why I play a game which has so many. I cheat. If I'm not winning, I cheat and say that it is not a real win so that I can keep playing. I move a jack into an empty place when I don't have a king. I figure that if I'm fated to lose this game, I may as well take the situation into my own hands through cheating. That way, at least I can pull some sort of win out of it. There is nothing worse than losing to yourself in a one-man game, except cheating at it. Actually, the worst of all is losing after you cheat, but that's irrelevant. I do not know who I am cheating; no one is watching me; I answer to no one, except myself. I also spend a lot of time questioning why I cannot bear to watch myself lose. I escape life by playing a game full of rules and regulations, then I cheat. Do I sense a metaphor here?

Dealing out another hand, I glance at A List Of Things To Do (A.L.O.T. To Do). I want to break the cycle. Each consecutive Down reminds me how long I have to go until it is Up again, until I get up again. I want to stop. I can't stop. If I was meant to stop, I'd stop, so instead I keep playing through exhaustion and better judgment. I think I'm a Solitaire-aholic. Do they have a hotline for that?

The down-up cycle reminds me a lot of my moods. Often more down than up. I have no control over what comes out of my moods anymore than I do over the order of the cards. I wish I did. Sometimes I pretend to be happy. I rarely ask myself who is benefiting. I wish I could escape from Solitaire, only I am afraid that I will only create another addiction. I am scared of anti-depressants. Sitting in my kitchen, I want to go home. Home is where life is predictable and where I hang my hat and where the cows come home to. Click, click, click. There's no place like home. I had a home once, in Connecticut. It was a long time ago (five years is a long time in the life of sixteen-year-old), but it seems like yesterday. No one understands why I say I want to go home when sitting in my own home. I ask myself if I'll ever have a home in Rhode Island. I think I'm starting to find one.

God, rules, addictions. home. Does Solitaire help answer my questions, or merely create more? It gives me something to run to when I feel pressured, or alone, or apathetic. And it gives me excuses. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Down. Up. Hello, my name is Kathy and I am a Solitaire junkie. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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