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"It’s Not Inconceivable" by Julia Meinwald

In line at Walgreens, I feel significant and singular. I know I’m not the first person in history to purchase a pregnancy test.  I’m probably not the first to buy one at this particular Walgreens this afternoon. In my personal history, though, this is big. I delayed the errand as long as I could bear, which turned out to be about three days.  It wasn’t that I felt sick, or anything. It was more like a mounting feeling that something important was happening to me. 

I pay for the test at the counter. It’s more expensive than I’d realized, and I feel a little crazy having to buy a package with two tests in it.  It’s not like I see myself taking these things on the regular. I picture myself tearfully sharing the results in the middle of a cluster of girls.  They are cooing over me, and maybe some are even braiding my hair.  I could be crying out of terror or relief -- the tableau is the same either way.  I’m probably not pregnant. I can feel the space for it though: the proverbial void into which something meaningful emerges.  So, maybe I am. 

I’m not dumb; I know that getting pregnant my sophomore year of college wouldn’t be, like, a good thing. But a pregnant girl is never alone. I hadn't realized it would be possible to feel so lonely on a campus of thousands of students, sharing bathrooms, sharing large wooden tables for dinner, always together, always in each other’s air. I have a single dorm room this year, which technically is enviable. The only reason I have it, though, is because I couldn’t find someone to room with, or even to “clip” two adjoining singles together. I still see my freshman year roommates; we’re not bosom buddies, to use a phrase no one here would use, but there’s no animosity between us. 

I could have put the Walgreens bag in my backpack, but it’s dangling from my wrist as I enter my dorm’s courtyard.  I see Hannah, one of my roommates from last year, and even though she doesn’t particularly move my way, I wave to her and approach her as if she’s beckoned me. 

“This is so embarrassing,” I say, gesturing to the bag. 

“What is?” she asks.

“Being caught red-handed with a pregnancy test.” I try to act close and friendly enough for the both of us.

“Oh,” says Hannah.

It seems like it’s still her turn, so I wait. “Well, good luck,” she finally says, heading out the gates to whatever important place she has to go.  That’s okay.  I’m also on a mission.

The women’s room is empty, though I wouldn’t have minded some accidental company as I unwrap the test in the stall. Sitting on the toilet, I read the instructions three times.  I look for weird sentences that I could incorporate into a hilarious story to be shared between the hours of midnight and two am (what I think of as confessional hours.) I narrate to myself the whole time.   Now I am holding the stick under a stream of urine.  Now I am setting the test on the box on the ground, but not looking at it as I count to three hundred, just for something to do while my phone keeps the official time.  I couldn’t actually be pregnant; I can’t make the idea feel real. My phone timer chimes the end of the wait.  Now I am, momentously, picking up the test. Now I am learning that I’m the same person I always was, not a person plus a fraction of a future.  I throw away the test, stowing the unused one in my bag.  

That night, after a couple of hours vaguely re-reading the same ten pages about US-China relations, I put on my slippers and pad over to Hannah’s room.  I knock on her door.

“Come in,” she says.  I think her face falls a bit when she sees it’s just me. There are two other girls there: Hannah’s roommate Sarah, and Phoebe from down the hall.  They are studying, I think, but it sort of feels like a slumber party.  I can smell microwave popcorn, and someone's Spotify playlist shimmers irrelevantly in the background. 

“Good news,” I press into her room, sitting next to her on her bed.  “The test was negative.”

“Um, congrats,” says Hannah.  Sarah and Phoebe are paying polite attention to me.  No one reaches for my hair, which I’d washed earlier today just in case a hair-braiding situation presented itself. 

“Phew! Right?” I say. 

“Um, not to be offensive or whatever, but, did you need to take a pregnancy test?” Hannah asks.  

“I mean, it was negative, so in retrospect no.”

“But, like, have you ever had sex?” Hannah looks embarrassed now, even though it’s my personal life we’re talking about.

“No,” I admit.  “Not per se.  I mean, no.  It was just a feeling, you know? Anyway, it was negative.”

I observe a look between Hannah, Sarah, and Phoebe that I can’t quite parse. I’m seized by the absurd need for someone to hug me. Instead, Hannah kind of taps the book in front of her, and Phoebe does a weird cough. I feel like someone needs to explicitly invite me to stay, but no one does, so I leave. 

I’ve left the lights and all my lamps on in my room, so it feels inviting when I get back to it. My textbook is open on the desk where I’d left it.  I know I won’t always feel like this. For all I know, next semester I’ll fall in love.  Tomorrow I might meet the person who becomes my best friend. Tucked into my desk drawer is the other pregnancy test. Anything’s possible. 

Julia Meinwald is a writer of fiction ( and musical theatre (, and a gracious loser at a wide variety of boardgames.  She’s had stories published in Vol 1 Brooklyn, Brief Wilderness and West Trade Review, with  stories coming out in After Dinner Conversation and Bayou Magazine  in Spring 2024.  Her work as a composer has been heard in productions across the US and in Canada, and the cast album for her musical The Magnificent Seven streams on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and elsewhere.


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