Nonfiction | July 01, 2011

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At twenty-two, I joined the Peace Corps. There are plenty of reasons why people do this; some are ill conceived and don’t get shared aloud, perhaps because they can’t be articulated. For me, it was the need to escape what seemed the loneliest feeling in the world: I was in my twenties and sure I’d never be loved, equally sure that no one but I had ever felt this way before. I was years away from reading Lyn Hejinian, who illuminated the direness the woman I was at that time was certain of but couldn’t have expressed. “I would be single all my life and lonely in old age,” she explains of her own thoughts as a young woman. “In such a situation it is necessary to make a choice between contempt and an attempt at understanding, and yet it is difficult to know which is the form of retreat.” My retreat?  I left the “Country Preference” line blank on my application and hoped whereever I was sent would be far enough away that nothing could follow me. I was assigned to a small village in the middle of Uzbekistan. It could have been anywhere: Africa or China or South America; it didn’t matter.

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