Smoking on the Back Steps of Bobst Library, NYU by Melissa Goode

It is eight PM, half way through our shift. The air is warm. Your knee is two inches from mine. I smell the cleanness of your T-shirt, your skin heating the white cotton. You flick ash from a cigarette with a neat flip of your wrist and offer me your Coke. I sip from the can where your lips had been and the dark sugar explodes in my mouth. Two students walk past us down the stairs. Poe. Is he the one with the bird? You smile over at me and say, what do you reckon, Kim? Is Poe the one with the bird? Your smile pulls in the pit of my stomach. You push your knee against mine, your shoulder too, and move away again, leaving two bright, hot spots on me. You say that last night I told you my top five cheapest places to eat in the city. Tonight, nothing. I say, tonight, I have nothing. Earlier, you were texting, your mouth shifting, and you hummed, moving your head, as if you could hear music. Now, I lean down and press my face against my knees. Your fingers brush against my neck when you pick up my ponytail. I stay still, dead. You wag my ponytail from side to side and say, Are you hiding? I’m just having a moment. You tug my ponytail gently, once, twice, until I raise my head. Your cell buzzes and you answer it, dropping my hair. I hear the smile in your voice when you say, Hey, Liv, what are you up to? You stand and walk to the bottom of the stairs. Your laugh, low and quiet, unfurls inside me, over and over, a force, tumbling.

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, Griffith Review, New World Writing, Cleaver Magazine, Litro Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Gravel, and Jellyfish Review among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: and at