You stand at the checkout line in the grocery store, listening to the methodical beeping of the items as the sweet, young girl scans them. You don’t look at her. You’d really rather be invisible.
All the same, you imagine her expression—shock, perhaps a touch of disgust—when she sees what you are buying. A pregnancy test? At your age?!
How old was this girl, anyway? Maybe not even 18. Half your age.
To that girl, a pregnancy test is reason for panic rather than hope. You wonder if she’s ever purchased one; even watched it with stalled breath, begging it to be negative.
Meanwhile, you’d give anything for it to be positive.
“So, have you heard?” the girl asks you. By this point, you have imagined her as such a vengeful, condescending little upstart that her real voice is shockingly kind.
“Heard what?” you ask, even though you’d really rather not have this conversation. Or any conversation.
“They say the clocks are wrong,” she says, her perfect blue eyes inviting you to be as impressed with this fact as she obviously is.
“Oh, yes, dear,” you say. “That is what they’re saying.” It was all anyone talked about at work, and truly, you’ve had your fill of small talk about broken clocks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen,” she goes on as she scans your items. Beep. Beep. The pregnancy test is right there behind the loaf of bread. And now that you are having a conversation with her, she would most certainly feel welcome to comment on it.
You should have just bought the test online. But with your luck, Ralph would have opened the package and asked you about it.
“Yes,” you say, “I suppose you would have been just a kid when the Satellites went up.”
“I was in sixth grade,” she says. “I only remember because we all got the day off of school.”
Beep. Beep. And there it was. You wait for the dramatic pause. The raised eyebrow. The awkward throat-clearing.
Beep. The girl scans it and puts it in the bag with the rest of your purchases.
You should feel relieved; after all, you weren’t looking forward to trying to justify why a past-her-prime woman was still trying to have a baby. But instead, you feel oddly disappointed that it was placed it in the bag with the string cheese and the shampoo like it was nothing but an empty wish.
And maybe that’s all it would turn out to be.