Solitaire for Two

By Julia Lynam

A silvery finger of light touched the distant mountains as I rose and stepped out onto the terrace outside my cabin. The faint honey jasmine scent of locust blossom hung in the cool morning air.

sunrise I stretched and purred, easing into the first few yoga postures of the day, bathing my limbs in the perfumed air, breathing in the rays of the rising sun. What was this inner glow I was nurturing? What was this warming flame, flickering like candlelight deep within my heart? Ah, yes, the promise of human communication! This remote retreat center in the mountains was fabulously beautiful but I hadn't expected to be on a silent retreat, and in three weeks I had met no one who spoke a word of English. But yesterday, as I passed though the common room and glimpsed the computer screen, I knew in an instant that I had happened upon a common passion, if not a language, and that I might venture down this path into conversation with that fascinating man with the unruly hair and horn-rimmed glasses.

I had kept this newfound knowledge to myself, tucking it away into a recess in my heart to be enjoyed in solitude before I launched into action. I travel with my laptop, and I know well the allure of whiling away long hours clicking on the cards. I find it hard to pay a visit to my email inbox, to search the net for a reference, even to write a journal entry, without taking a detour into my addiction.

The initial dive into the first row of cards; the discovery of their subtle relationships; the exciting revelation of yet another row of possibilities enhancing, nurturing or spiking the burgeoning matches of the first row; the slow build towards a crescendo of success, or towards an anti-climax; the moment of realization that this time it was going to work out; or the slow, reluctant admission that it would end in stalemate, all these things kept me hooked, kept me returning to the land of Spider Solitaire.

Did I say conversation? Nothing ventured . . .

"Bonjour," I tried, "Je, moi aussi, j'aime le Spider Solitaire!"

"Huh?" He looked blearily up at me, jolted back from the game unfolding in black and red before him. It was his seventh in a row. I'd been watching.

"Bong-joor," he assayed experimentally. Not French, then.

"Jo tambien, quiero el Spider Solitaire!" I tried brightly.

I had his attention: "Yo?" he echoed, puzzled. Not Spanish, either.

I was rapidly approaching the end of my meager store of languages:

"Rwyn hoffi Spider Solitaire." What was I thinking? Welsh really wasn't going to help.

Sign language it would have to be. He seemed interested and he didn't demur when I pulled up a chair beside him. "Spider Solitaire," I said, pointed energetically at the screen, being careful not to touch it, of course. He nodded vigorously.

"Me," I said, pointing at - well, me of course! More nods. Affecting a look of ecstasy, puckering my lips in a pseudo kiss, I reached both hands out to the screen and brought them to my heart, rocking, cherishing, loving the life-giving game.

Light broke over his face, rendering it even more fascinating, I noted, as he laughed and gabbled something in no language I had ever heard.

Bingo! But let's not mix games.

He gently pulled my chair a little closer to his, closed the game he was playing and opened a new one, signaling me to join him in playing it. Solitaire for two? A new and revolutionary concept!

The new game springs into life, cards rippling across the virgin page. The first row reveals an unbelievable wealth of matches. We begin this twosome dance awkwardly, not sure how to play together, anxious not to tread on one another's toes, yet eager to be close. I hang back a little observing his strategy. Good, like me, he makes the perfect matches first: red nine on red ten, black two on black three on black four, moving on to the imperfect matches only when all the perfect ones are accomplished. He's becoming caught up into the action and keeps on moving cards. Now he remembers, realizes that he's hogging the mouse and hands it to me with an apologetic grin. I smile back: we're both new at this game.

I click the second row: the cards fling themselves open across the page and patterns begin to emerge. I glance quickly across the field: should I move that black five or the other one? What card would each expose? What route would each lay bare? Red cards march downwards in a long and growing line. I wrench myself away from my intoxication and relinquish the mouse.

As we play the next two lines we're both breathing hard. Maybe this is going to play itself out to a resolution! I touch his arm and turn to him with a sharp inhalation, placing my hand over my heart, opening my eyes wide to indicate excitement. He places his hand gently over mine. Slowly, slowly, keeping him in direct soft focus, I remove my hand, leaving his to lie upon my heart. His hand moves in a soft caress. Gazing at him I breath in deeply, deep and long into my abdomen, and then out from belly to solar plexus, from solar plexus to heart, from heart to throat, breathing out a long, controlled stream of life-giving air. His hand rests caressingly over my heart until the breath escapes from my lips. He removes his hand, brushing my hair gently from my eyes and returns his gaze to the screen.

We both sigh deeply as the first suit completes itself and the cards peel smoothly away to recline in the lower left hand corner. They're followed by another, and another, as the outcome becomes clear: we've made it! The last of the suits lines up, salutes us briefly then subsides. A moment's pause and the fireworks begin, filling the screen with vivid silent explosions, up and up, arching over, down and down in a kaleidoscope of colored light. We are spellbound, transfixed. There is no need for words, there never was: we speak a universal language.

Golden fingers of light from the setting sun touch the sky as I plan tomorrow's game. I'll think we'll try the advanced version - four suits!