Recently, I have become alarmed at how quickly I’m getting older. The whole previous decade seemed to pass without my noticing; last I checked, I was single, in my 20s, and living in a tiny studio apartment. This morning, I woke up bewildered at the realization that I’m married, in my 30s, and live in a house. Once I had my head sorted out and was capable of bringing the past ten years back to recollection, I became deeply concerned for my mental sharpness in the years ahead. My family has a history of dementia, and the only thing that I am doing to stave it off is playing an inordinate amount of Freecell.
There are, of course, too many variants of solitaire to list here, and almost all of them require more cognitive acuity than Freecell. While it is an intellectual notch above the Klondike solitaire we all know and despise, Freecell is a hideously simple game. You move cards around, you put cards off to the side to get at other cards (and in so doing, utilize the free cells that are the game’s namesake), and you stack cards by suit, starting with Aces and working sequentially up to Kings. Unlike deals of Klondike, which are so infrequently winnable that it barely constitutes a game, all but a very tiny handful of Freecell deals are winnable. All you need to win is persistence and, on rare occasions, mild cleverness (and really, this cleverness is often best described as efficiency in finding ‘brute force’ solutions).
Nonetheless, I have spent every day since Thanksgiving weekend, when I re-downloaded a Freecell app out of boredom, playing between one and entirely too many deals of Freecell. The app features an experience and leveling system, and sometimes when you level up you get a title of some kind. I’ve played so much that the app seems to have mostly run out of titles. ‘Grand Master’ was several levels ago, and while I can’t be bothered to look up what my current title is, I know for a fact it’s not as impressive as ‘Grand Master’. Having run out of superlatives, the app appears to be encouraging me to spend my time doing something else.
Meanwhile, I can’t remember the last time I learned anything useful. Even though I have most of my days to myself, most of the information that enters my cerebellum tends to be a variety of disturbingly unchill opinions about food, D&D, and video games. For some unknown and doubtlessly disturbing reason, I find myself having real trouble engaging with current events and politics due to the sadly inescapable hatefulness that permeates the world today, but I have an endless tolerance for smug bros insisting that their chicken skin be as crispy as possible on Youtube.
My time with a sharp brain knife is running out. Years and even entire decades have started to blur together, and before I know it the entire contents of my mind are going to spill out. The only thing that will be left is Freecell.