By Mollie Swayne
1. Have sex. Introduce an element of reasonable uncertainty: martini, birth control dropped down the drain, your own memory.
2. Have dreams. There are fish in your shampoo, freckles on your palms and the bottoms of your feet, plants growing from the black crust on the floor of your oven. Things are not where they should be.
3. Look at your calendar. Consult an astrolabe, the tidal charts. Realize that, while you were not paying close attention, time has been passing. Feel your mind grow murky with inexactness. You know the end but not the beginning. You are not sure how long ago it was, but you feel it was too long.
4. Become aware of your body, your core especially. Does it feel like a church bell? A waterslide? A sun-warmed satellite dish? Are you retreating within your own Schwarzschild radius? Compare groans and gurgles. Take careful notes.
4a. (Optional) Perform statistical stylometrics on the words in your notes to see what your subconscious knows. For example, it is widely accepted that frequent use of the word “cornmeal” is a sure sign you’re pregnant with a musical savant. Context reveals what instrument.
5. Wait. There could be nothing wrong. Maintain a nonchalant exterior. Remain as talkative as ever when with friends. If anything related to children is mentioned, let your eyes gloss over while looking at the wine list.
6. Wait more. Become an expert statistician. Dwell on percentages, timelines, diagrams. Vacillate between comfort in the mystery of your wayward body and fear of nature’s determination. Finally convince yourself you have nothing to worry about. Watch a movie where everyone dies and go to sleep easily that night.
7. Wake up bloodless and again uncertain. Go to the bathroom every twenty minutes throughout the day, each time because you think your period has started. Become so confused you accidentally pee your pants. Tell your boss you’re sick and leave early. Stay slightly bowlegged until safely home. Decide your concern has become actionable alarm.
8a. (Optional) Consult with partner. Try not to read too much into their reaction.
8b. (Optional) Conceal from partner. Depending on degree of intimacy, stop returning calls or continue grimacing at them over dinner.
9. Go to a store where the clerks won’t recognize you. Buy ten other things with your pregnancy test.
10. Get pee on your hands as you try not to wave the test around in the toilet bowl.
11. Clean out your refrigerator. Forget you only have to wait two minutes. For half an hour, get lost in expired soy sauce, questionable cheese, and taking out the trash. Feel lighter, cleansed. Then remember why you started in the first place.
12a. Stare at your results. Laugh at yourself and how anxious you were! You knew you couldn’t be pregnant, but you wanted to get proof and stop worrying all the same. Drop the test in the trash can and continue life exactly as before.
12b. Stare at your results. Feel the curvature of the earth.
– Mollie Swayne has worn many hats (e.g., call center minion, janitor, ESL teacher), but this is the first time she can claim that of published flash fiction writer. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
This has elements of anxiety mixed with some real madness. The last line has weight. Enjoyable.