Tonight, We Are Awake
Melissa Goode

We were asleep when someone banged on our front door, with what? A wrench? It was deafening. It was a home invasion, except it wasn't. A fire fighter yelled at us to evacuate—there was a fire in the building next door. 

You said, "Evacuate, really? Is that necessary?"

He was already gone.

We walk down fifteen flights of fire stairs and I am dizzy like I've been smacked over the head with a brick. Downstairs, in the front courtyard, we congregate in pajamas, bathrobes, slippers and flip-flops. Children clutch worn-out teddy bears. Some cry in their parents' arms, others are asleep again. The forbidden cats and dogs are here too.

The building next door billows black smoke into the orange, light-polluted sky. Our hair and clothes smell of smoke. Is it hotter? Someone says they see flames, but no one else does. Someone goes on and on about their asthma, dragging on their rescue inhaler, until they are taken away on a stretcher and silenced with oxygen.

You and I walk down the road to the 7-Eleven, fluorescent-white and fridge-cold. We squint and shiver. Half of our neighbors are here, loitering in the doorway and in the aisles, reading their phones, licking Doritos-dusted fingers, sucking down Slurpees, flipping through Who, singing along to "She's Like The Wind" and "I Drove All Night" and every other fuck-I-love-this-song.

"Let's never go home!" someone yells to no one in particular.

We eat hot dogs even though we shouldn't. The bread is white, confectionary. We don't think about the meat—the pigs' ears, lips, assholes, whatever.

A few receive a text that we can return to the building. They, all of them, file out onto the street partway through "Constant Craving."

You buy us both large coffees and a packet of peanut M&M's. We sit at a table, hand in hand. We are still cold, but getting warmer. We are quiet. We will go home and fuck and not sleep at all tonight even though we have to work tomorrow. We will lie in our bed in the dark gray dawn and listen to the birds sing and swear it is the first time we have heard them.

Melissa Goode has work in Split Lip, WhiskeyPaper, SmokeLong Quarterly, (b)OINK and many others. She lives in Australia.

Read her postcard.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Anthony Easton.

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