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I clutch tightly around the handle of my umbrella, relishing in my own dryness as I make my way down the city street. I am heading home from a day of sending out applications while slowly sipping coffee at a small café. Most of the people passing me have umbrellas as well, but others appear to have no problem striding by at a casual pace while the heavens drench their heads with water. I find myself particularly bothered when such a man passes by whistling “Singin’ in the Rain.” Something in his demeanor lacks care, and that fact irritates me for a reason I can’t describe.

Compared to yesterday, this is bliss. It was a clear day, but I had a phone interview scheduled that afternoon. I spent the entire day—no, the entire week beforehand—worrying about it. It felt as if I couldn’t trust myself to say the right thing at the right time. I somehow knew that I would create an awkward silence, and that my potential employer would have the worst opinion of me. Well, the interview went “okay;” I was surprised at my ability to answer her questions. Now, I’m waiting for a response, which of course carries its own suspense and tension.

As I continue down the street on this April afternoon, hearing endless cars pass by along the wet road, I repeat the word “shelter” in my mind over and over again. The tool in my hands shelters me from every single passing rain drop; without it, droplets will fling themselves onto my skin, creating a moment of uncomfortable coldness that, admittedly, probably goes away as I get used to it. Nevertheless, I revel in my own bubble of safety. Everything else exists outside, past my barrier, away from my mind.

I look downwards, narrowly avoiding a large puddle in the sidewalk. A small part of me begins to panic, realizing that dangers can still breach my shelter. Just as this happens, another thought, a memory, breaks through and creeps into my mind. A letter from a parent I received last week—which parent? Had I blocked out that much already? —that gave me an ultimatum to find a job soon or stop getting funding from them.

My hands tremble. What’s the point of my shelter, then? Why do these thoughts keep returning? I stop walking, forcing people to move around. I am suddenly aware of everything. I can see a cycle that I want to stop. But the longer I stand there, the more I want to keep my cover. Don’t think... Don’t think!

I close the umbrella and look up, feeling the entire world upon me at once.

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