Michael Marano, 129 TESS
I arrived at Peace Corps Staging in San Francisco surrounded by a fortress of buttons and wool. Before I entered what was sure to be an onslaught of icebreakers, I fastened my shirt all the way to my chin, feeling safer with every clasp, and cloaked myself in an oversized black cardigan. I spent most of the morning staring down at the hands in my pockets, mumbling my way through a condensed three-minute life story that got shorter and less illuminating on each retelling. Shuffled to my fourth table of strangers, I longed for the moment a genuine connection would increase the resolution of their pixelated faces but feared appearing in HD myself. I continued to hide in plain sight as the timid nephew of Mr. Rogers observing and gathering information until I felt comfortable enough to open up. Then, I was placed next to her.
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