Manual

Manual for jealous women:

  1. If a piece of hair curls before right ear, congratulations. She put it there for you to see. That is very good.
  2. There is a house whose mailbox spits out heating bills. They are coaxed in like baby food, but if you unfold them, they will be blank. This house is where the ache lives. There is one on every block. You’ve probably passed by a million times without giving it a second thought.
  3. If her eyes are green, she will be cold to you. That doesn’t have to be bad, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t tell her too many things about your middle school friends or the way your mom feels when you get a haircut.
  4. The heat you feel is ancient, the kind that Sappho burned her tongue on every morning. Let’s call it the snake because that’s what it is. The snake leaves before dark, saying she’s just going to buy the girl coffee and ends up burning the whole town down by the end of the night.
  5. If she has brown eyes, you will melt on her tongue and leave her covered in your sticky, embarrassed handprints. These things rarely get easier.
  6. If she says she likes your shirt, she wants to borrow it. But be warned, she will turn her back to the corner of the room while you slip it off your shoulders.
  7. The snake is the cake recipe you printed out a week before Mother’s Day. You bought the peanut butter. You borrowed eggs from every neighbor. The dish towel caught on fire and the greeting card gave everyone paper cuts.
  8. If she watches you push up your sleeves, she wants to be the one to pull off the shirt in one swift motion. (But if she has green eyes, she probably won’t admit that.)
  9. I’m partial to the snake’s advice because she always gives the hissing kind. She tells me to write the girl a letter, lick the envelope slowly, and let bitterness spread across my tongue. With time, I’ll get used to the taste of anything. Stand behind the door, creeping. Listen for anything that moves in the shape of your name. Stay suspicious. Stay simmering.
  10. Her house is the one with windows steamed shut. There is a bucket of marbles by the door. Feel free to add to it when the green-eyed ones strike.

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