Once, because I’m a sloppy packer, I almost poisoned myself to death by inserting a tampon covered in DEET insect repellant. It brought me the closest I have ever felt to death, and in those brief moments I believed I was entirely alone and dying in the most humiliating way a human had ever died.

I was studying religious archeology in India on a college study abroad program, and every day we woke up before sunrise at our university guest house, showered, and consumed a breakfast heavy in vegetables and clarified butter before we were bused to a temple. On the field trips we were completely unable to hear our low-talking Brahmin professor explain the iconography and distant gods that we were supposed to be memorizing for an upcoming test.

One day at a temple, students crowded close to our professor like a pack of puppies trying to suckle at… More…