They said I couldn’t make sense of playing cards. I didn’t have the mentality. A man without patience. Indeed, I faced them out and went even further. I said that I did not believe in playing cards, in the same way as many people said they didn’t believe in fairies.
It seemed to me, I told them, that to believe in cards you needed a good memory for detail. I’ve seen people with hands of cards visibly memorising what had already passed through their own and the hands of others. By thus memorising double-headed pictures or simply spotted ones, you should, in theory, diminish the odds, increase the chances or simply feel more confident with the knowledge of the history of the game so far – and confidence is often half the battle in life, not only in card games. Confidence, as provided by knowledge, was of more value than the actual knowledge, it seemed to me.
As I didn’t have that sort of memory, I found it easy to forget even the possibility of playing-cards existing as tangible objects. In fact, I began to see them as figments of imagination while I watched other people pretending to be shuffling them, dealing them face down, fanning them out in their hands, finally playing each card face up into whatever patterns of chance or skill that they were persuading themselves were pre-occupying them as players. Persuading each other, too, as a form of mass self-hypnotism. But not persuading me, the objective bystander.
Indeed, I did actually see them as not fanning out playing-cards in their hands at all – but more as brandishing knives. So, were these oblong knife-blades without handles that I saw in their hands? No, not really, but real cutlery knives splayed like the fans that old-fashioned ladies used to wield in sweeping motions to dissipate their hot flushes.
On one occasion, as I watched a particularly intense version of poker, they suddenly realised that the pack lacked one of the jacks.
“I have the jack,” I said with a confident smile. I had earlier sneaked it from the pack to boost my own strength of belief, wind up the cut of my jib as the once doubter now turned dealer.
Each of the players turned to me, their concentrated masks of confidence becoming blatant trumps of emotion...
... then abruptly swishing out their uncounted aces-of-spades from sheaths disguised as sleeves or sleeves disguised as sheaths. The croupier was to come a cropper, it seemed.
Or a headless head.
Or just another fairy.