(Continued from “Why I Don’t Play Farmville, Part 1”)
“Indoors or outside?” The man wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Walking today; inside or out?”
Fortunately, Gertrude remembered something. “I’m having lunch with Mavis today—it’s Thursday.”
Jerry avoided her widowed friend from the Garden Club like poison ivy. Mavis cornered him with handyman requests every time she saw him.
Still, he wouldn’t let the walking go. “But we have plenty of time before lunch.”
Gertrude rolled her eyes in her mind. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? “Yes, but I also promised to pack a few boxes of clothes for the church bazaar. And I wanted to drop them off right after lunch. While I’m out.”
Jerry gave his wife a hug. “Gerty, we have to work on your cholesterol. If you put it off today, promise you’ll join me tomorrow?”
“You know I will. Sorry I overbooked.” With any luck, Gertrude would be substitute teaching tomorrow. She hated to exercise. “Do you mind walking by yourself this morning?”
Jerry sighed. “See you later this afternoon?”
Gertrude accepted his peck on the cheek and shot him a dazzling smile. “Of course, sweetheart. Have fun.”
Once Jerry left, Gertrude got out the boxes for the bazaar. After ten minutes of sorting, she remembered she hadn’t checked her email. The instant she sat down at the computer, her fingers wandered over to the accessories icon, and within thirty seconds she was deeply involved in a game of Solitaire.
This time, the win wasn’t immediate. An hour and a half later she was dismayed to see she was down over fifteen hundred dollars.
The game was disgusting. There was nothing worthwhile about it. Thank goodness she had only wasted a little time, not real money. Her back hurt and she felt the first tendrils of a headache. Plus, she would have to rush to meet Mavis. The bazaar boxes weren’t finished either.
The days began to assume an awful rhythm. Although she didn’t want to admit it, the game of Solitaire began to consume all of Gertrude’s time. The most undisturbed moments were late at night, after Jerry had fallen into a deep sleep. She would play until her eyes burned so badly the numbers began to blur on the computer screen. Not only did her back ache, in addition, her fingers and toes would go so cold, she could hardly move them. She chastised herself for being so easily captured by the mesmerizing game.
Over and over Gertrude would watch the cards drop into place. She enjoyed Solitaire the most when she had a hard fast run of matching cards. Sometimes she purposefully slowed her pace so she wouldn’t miss anything, but she was at her best when the play was quick. Call it intuition, she thought smugly. When she grew weary and started missing the obvious moves, she vowed to play only five more minutes to get ahead and then go straight to bed.
Long after she was no longer enjoying herself, something kept her at the screen. The Solitaire game seemed to have a soul of its own, sucking her life into its empty frame.
Of course, the later she played, the later she needed to sleep the next morning. And she had to hide it from Jerry. She started turning down substitute teaching, also hiding this from Jerry, letting him think the schools were experiencing less teacher absenteeism. Sometimes, she would get up and kiss him goodbye for one of his consulting jobs, which seemed to be picking up, thank goodness, and go right back to bed. Or, once up, she would play just a little more Solitaire, which always turned into a minimum of one to two hours, and then crawl back into bed.
Gertrude canceled lunches with friends and opted out of other social activities. Eventually only Mavis remained as her one standing commitment; she couldn’t find a reason to discontinue those lunches. None of her friends said anything to her or to Jerry about the birthday and anniversary cards she’d stopped sending after years of never missing a single occasion; but one of their children noticed and called. She apologized profusely and started treating the cards like bills; they had to be done. Not willingly or with joy, but as an intrusion on her time with her Solitaire.
Once in a great while, Gertrude wondered what was to become of her. Was this all her life was worth? Was there no meaning in her life but to play Solitaire? She still went to church on Sundays and participated in the activities Jerry planned, but that was all. She began to hate the Solitaire, but she couldn’t resist him. At one point she noticed she thought of Solitaire as a male entity, no longer an unidentifiable it. He called to her and she couldn’t refuse. A male siren.
Even at night, after she did manage to escape him and finally sink into her warm covers, she thought of nothing but the cards dropping into place. King, queen, jack, ten. King, queen, jack, ten. Over and over and over. Red, black, red, black. The cards invaded her dreams for the rest of the night. Every night.
If Jerry’s consulting business hadn’t blossomed, she wouldn’t have been able to fool him. In a way, it was Jerry’s fault, she decided. He taught her the game and now he wasn’t around to protect her. But when he was around, his presence was an intrusion.
One day he came home early to find her glued—at three in the afternoon—to a Solitaire game, unshowered, disheveled, and the house in disarray. Gertrude could almost read the emotions flickering on his face.
Stay tuned for Part 3 as it appears Gertrude might have to confess what she’s been doing. Or will she?