Operating Instructions

the honesty of that gives me / a peach pit in my stomach / a teardrop in / my throat

Operating Instructions
Photo by Neil Soni / Unsplash

by Stuart Pennebaker

1. look at the tiny computer you hold in your hands
look at it
it recognizes you
and opens like a _________.

2. point with your finger at a square on the screen: a yellow beehive
a red flame
the letter h
isn’t this so
strange isn’t it incredible that if you touch with the pad of your thumb,
if you fingerprint,
the beehive, the flame

you will see strange faces
strangers from the internet
who are all admitting
at least a little bit
that they are

the honesty of that gives me
a peach pit in my stomach
a teardrop in
my throat

3. next: look at their pictures
choose the ones you like
if they like you back say something quick!
something funny,
something kind,
(oh god please be kind)

say cute dog
say i am a human being don’t forget
say read anything good lately?
say i want to make out with your face (i’ve
never tried that one but i’ve heard it works)
say hi,
i too feel sad sometimes at the vastness, the overwhelmingness of I don’t know, everything,

4. send little messages back and forth on your little computers
like fax machines, but quicker,
(forty-five minutes ago you had no idea
this person existed
kind of a miracle if you think
about it)
and more high tech

5. the fun part, the scary part:
what are you up to this week
do you want to sit at a wobbly
table and drink hot brown liquid with me
or let’s go to a place where they brew wheat (or something) in metal tanks
the whole thing, a science experiment,
and sip cold amber colored drinks out of glasses
this will make me
bolder braver maybe more beautiful

maybe we will kiss in the parking
lot maybe i will sleep in your sheets maybe
i will crawl out of the bathroom window and
change my number it could
go a lot of different ways

maybe we put on white
tie our lives together
maybe we bring a tiny human into
our home
she is so beautiful
she is so
beautiful, her tiny toes, she grows,
the pink ribbon in her dark hair
(your moms curls, my grandmother’s eyes)
comes untied & drifts to the ground like
the pink petals that floated in the
air in the backyard of the tiny apartment
where we fell in love
that first spring
metal boxes, glowing screens, all but forgotten.

6. as she hangs upside down on blue monkey bars,
is it a miracle, this tiny computer,
the metal box we held in our
is it possible it
is beautiful?

Stuart Pennebaker is a writer in Brooklyn by way of South Carolina. She is currently at work on a novel about fish, ghosts and Florida.