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I played solitaire according to my own color-coordinated rules. Hearts with spades and spades with hearts. The same for clubs and diamonds. Something left over from childish insistences that certain things belong together. Peanut butter and jelly. This shirt with those pants. The prince and the princess. Fairy tales are orderly things.
We sat in the grass one day and talked about solitaire. I talked about my illogical rules and my best friend chuckled at me in a loving, best-friendy kind of way, but even so it made me glad that you didn’t laugh. You didn’t laugh at one of my most secret quirks, my deep conviction that some pairs are just not meant to be dissolved. Take the prince and the princess. Meant to be, right?
Well, one would hope so. Otherwise there’ll be a real wakeup call for Sleeping Beauty here shortly.
But I wasn’t Sleeping Beauty and most people, including my loving best friend, had figured out that it wasn’t meant to be for me. At least it wasn’t until the day we sat in the grass with my loving best friend and her boyfriend and you told me I was the Queen of Hearts.
It was all gone again when my best friend’s boyfriend said that no, she was the Queen of Hearts.
My best friend said that we could both be the Queen of Hearts, but I knew that wouldn’t be right nor poetically justified because there’s only one Queen of Hearts in a deck. So I deferred like I always defer and said no, I could be the Queen of Spades because I’d always liked her best anyway.
You gave me one glance and I knew you saw that I wished I could be the Queen of Hearts and was trying to be glad to be the Queen of Spades anyway and hated myself for all the times I bent to other people’s wishes even though it was the considerate and kind thing to do. You saw that I wished I were a real, imperfect human being instead of an age-old image of a selfless, beautiful, heroic queen printed on a piece of plastic.
But I swallowed my wishes instead of my pride, and told you that you could be the King of Hearts because my invented rules dictated that the King of Hearts go with the Queen of Spades. Besides, I added, only half-laughing, you were the king of my heart.
That was fair, a ruler of hearts per each pair of us, so we parted for the day with a few backward jests, and you were gone.
Time went on. Life became a rat race, a sort of endless cycle of trying not to forget that I was the Queen of Spades, that I was a selfless, beautiful, heroic queen, one living in when the the here and now, not the hereafter and not the heretofore, either. It isn’t easy to be the Queen of Spades, not when your loving best friend is the Queen of Hearts and ruling happily over her own loving kingdom. Nor is it easy when you’re surrounded by other girls who don’t understand, girls whose lives are fraught with the minutiae of their club-and-diamond loves, loves that are both cheap and expensive at once. Nor is it easy when the king of your heart has gone to the card crusades or something, and you are surrounded by eager Jacks of Hearts who are eager to graduate to Kings but who just don’t cut it. Most of them are purely jackasses anyway.
And night after night I returned to my game of solitaire, playing by the stupid rules that made it twice as impossible to finish the game, but not for the world would I have compromised my self-imposed dictums, not for the world would I have broken my own stubborn, stupid rules. And the longer I played, the more I found that as the club and the diamond motifs on the computer-generated cards grew smaller in my mind’s eye, the spade and the heart motifs grew larger. And after a while, club-and-diamond girls and Jacks of Hearts began to fade in significance, and my loving best friend and the king of my heart grew closer and closer to me.
Finally one night the doorbell rang and the game was over. There you were. I cried with happiness. Finally, finally, all the clubs and all the diamonds could convene in their own world, their own universe, and I and my king of hearts could finally create ours.
And as I was about to finally close the solitaire window and the chapter of my life that was solitude, I remembered my early aversions to being the Queen of Spades, and I was grateful for her, for my heroic, queenly self. I was glad I hadn’t wished to be the Queen of Hearts, because she gets the King of Spades. I smiled with a joy as old as the image printed on the card, because our real, imperfect fairy tale was only just beginning.
I was the Queen of Spades and you were my King of Hearts. And some things just belong together.