A scholar of contemporary gender relations goes out on a Bumble date. In the relentlessly self-reflexive mesh of her subjectivity this hookup is more of a social experiment rather than a romantic meeting. Her internal monologue informs us it isn’t so much the desire as the analysis of the desire that gives her pleasure. A woman so disinterested in pandering to male desire that she confesses to have made seminar presentations during sexual encounters. We believe in her casualness, hardly do we expect her to become a casualty of it.
As the protagonist of this story scrambles for powerfulness through her thought, her body’s vulnerability undermines her. Even as she conjectures that Copernicus might be a “foolish fuck” who reads summary of books, her body longs to kiss him again. Female authors like Annie Ernaux and Jenny Offill have given us radically honest and richly textured portrayals of female desire in which women often find themselves caught between thinking and feeling, or in the treacherous entrapment of thinking their feelings. The protagonist of “An Encounter” veers from the powerfulness of Plath’s Lady Lazarus to the clinginess of same poet’s “mad girl”, her interiority surprises as much as the undulations of her emotional flow delight us.
— Shivani Mutneja
The Bombay Literary Magazine
I met him on top of a bridge, with river water roaring beneath us. From my point of view, our first encounter retains cinematic value.
In front of the subway on Great Western Road, he had been waiting for me. He started swinging from one direction to another upon receiving a text message in which I announced my arrival: ‘Hey, I’m here.’ I didn’t end my sentence with a period, a gesture of madness I cannot now rationalise. Only the cold breeze that hugged my face as I stationed myself on the bridge can explain this temporary disorientation. I don’t think he would have found my unusual neglect objectionable, though, for he once wrote ‘booze’ instead of ‘drinks’ in a text message and wrote ‘Nah’ when he could have written ‘No’ in another. Since it is, of course, a universally acknowledged truth that a man who has submitted himself to the influence of postmillennial jargon must be in want of texts that don’t conform to normative codes of punctuation, he couldn’t have objected to the absence of a period in my text. Perhaps the addition of ‘Yo’ and ‘lol’ would have appealed to him more in the announcement of my arrival.
I stood in front of him across the road, but he kept looking sideways, occasionally looking down at his phone, as though the sight of my latest message would offer him the tools he needed to find me. I remained still and watched him for a good thirty seconds as he searched for me, making no attempt to introduce myself to the lost child he had become and allowing myself the pleasure of making assumptions. Copernicus, which is what I shall call him since it rhymes with his first name, looked like he enjoyed baking. A Peeta from The Hunger Games, I thought, even though I lacked adequate evidence. The more I watched him sway right and left in the most absurd fashion, the more I started to feel like Lady Lazarus, rising out of ash with my red hair and eating men like air. He looked powerless and I felt powerful.
His continued swinging gave me an initial impression of undeniable foolishness, which persisted even when his restless eyes spotted me, although my impression did not prevent me from either responding to his attempts at small talk or registering interest in his life. In spite of my enthusiasm for talking and for making people listen to me, my conversations with strangers with whom I hook up have remained abysmally limited on purpose. Ever since I started to think of masturbation as the primary source of sexual pleasure, for singles and couples alike, I abandoned myself to theorise how we could all look at sex as a want instead of a need. My eventual admission in contemporary hookup culture, precisely four years after I wrote a paper tracing the genealogy of hookup culture in urban Delhi, became a means to scrutinise men’s behaviour in the bedroom. Sex became a social experiment.
I don’t mind explaining my reservations with traditional romantic relationships and my criticism of consumerist dating traditions to the men I hook up with, but, in my defence, nobody has ever bothered to ask me for such a clarification. Not one man has made an attempt to understand my unwillingness to enter into a relationship. Most have been content with the prospect of sex. And so, I have rationalised men’s disinterest in my theories on romance by thinking that either most of them are unwilling to think or are uninterested in coming to terms with the implications of the spectacle of romance that they are, to some extent, already familiar with. In other words, because nobody has bothered to seek a clarification, I have assumed, on most days and most nights, that most men I hook up with are too mindless to have an adequately interesting conversation. It is under this unfair and unjust assumption that I have convinced myself that I am licensed to ignore the logistics of conversation and care that the majority of sexual encounters demand.
On the way to his house, Copernicus shared his thoughts on Glasgow, saying that the city ‘isn’t like London.’When he asked me how I felt, I said that Glasgow was ‘okay.’ He chuckled, putting into the word ‘okay’ an implication of inadequacy. But my ‘okay’ was meant to designate sufficiency. It wasn’t a sign of resignation; it was a marker of acceptability. If, for instance, someone, after asking one how they are doing and after hearing one say ‘okay,’ proceeds to ask, ‘Just okay? Not great?’ wouldn’t one brand them a psychotic idiot, for not identifying sufficiency in a perfectly nice word? ‘Okay,’ I maintain, is far from inadequate.
His recurrent efforts to maintain a conversation were far from eccentric, but there were moments when I felt that he was unable to tolerate silences to which I was perfectly accustomed, for moments of silence tend to ascribe a pattern of uniformity to my varying routines and constitute the only stable anchor to my dramatic existence as a scholar. As he walked beside me, his glorious technoflesh beside my marble body, I could feel his unease at the silences that momentarily emerged during our conversation. What remained for me a non-issue became for him an oppressive reality. Perhaps he perceived it was his duty to conform to gender schemas and take charge of the conversation when it seemed to be going nowhere. So he tried and committed himself to rhetorical foreplay or perhaps the very silence that was my companion in hours of solitude was for him a nightmare.
For I cannot quite imagine he was interested in seriously talking to me. He didn’t know me enough to want to speak to me. My Bumble profile had indicated to him my interest in Palestine and Kashmir, but it had been devoid of credentials of interest to potential romantic partners. To seek interest in knowing a stranger whose profile lacks a bio and whose first message has the convenient abbreviation ‘DTF’ requires a thing called hope. On what evidence could he have hoped? On what grounds did he have the right to hope to get to know me in the ten minutes we had to ourselves before sex?
Besides, my limited but respectful efforts in maintaining a conversation were not only coloured by my unfair and unjust assumption, but also by my absorption in the walk. I was more interested in the walk rather than the conversation. We were marching on half deserted streets under golden streetlights. That experience itself was sufficient to make me radiant with joy. Days before our meeting, I could have texted him that he didn’t have to pick me up in front of the subway, that such a visitation was more suffocating than hospitable, but, for some strange reason I can now neither recall nor explain, I didn’t; instead, there I was, walking on half empty roads with a stranger about whom I didn’t know enough but with whom I didn’t feel smothered as I shared my experience of walking with him. If only he knew how intimate a walk was for me, how engraved in my memory it used to become, he may have understood me more than he could have by means of my responses to his comments and questions.
The time we spent together inside his house was interrupted only once, when the alarm I had set days before our meeting for a lecture scheduled to take place that night disturbed our privacy. Of all the questions he asked that night, he didn’t inquire about the lecture, which I had anticipated with enough interest that I added an alarm as a reminder and about which I could have said something more than ‘okay,’ not that there’s anything wrong with ‘okay.’ Previously, during sex with another man, not only did I listen to a panelist give her conference presentation on my earphones, I stopped and went downstairs for fifty minutes to make my own presentation and attend to questions, only to return upstairs again. It was because of my past experience that I didn’t delete my alarm prior to meeting Copernicus: I was half hoping to join the lecture that night, irrespective of ongoing sexual activity, for earphones cannot be barriers by any means. Days later, in the most arbitrary fashion, it dawned on me that he may have presumed that my alarm was a deliberately engineered exit strategy and, almost immediately, my wretched sorrows multiplied, like cancer cells, inducing in me stranger and stranger theories of harm committed on my part. My thoughts deprived me of consolation at a time I desperately needed it. And so, hurriedly, as though another encounter with him would help me put aside his possible unease, I sent him a message: ‘Hey, are you free on Friday?’
But sending a message didn’t restore sanity to my mind. The agonies I experienced hours and days after my eventual departure from his house were so unusual that I started using sleep as a mechanism to avoid thinking and feeling. For this misery, I blame my memory, which poses as a Victorian invalid on most days, demanding to be left alone, but becomes a vessel of torment on the very days on which its isolation would have been ideal for my sanity. When my memory recalls to my mind events in such excruciating detail that I relive them again, almost as a prisoner of time, I start to overthink such small things as glances and nods, often being paralysed by radical uncertainty of the precise meaning of a particular gesture.
For instance, as I was wearing my socks in his hallway, preparing to leave, Copernicus came from inside his bedroom, carrying my handbag. The longer I contemplated this apparent display of kindness, the more convinced I became that he had wanted me to leave as early as I could, that he could no longer endure me in his house. A few minutes prior to what I now saw as his exhibition of impatience, we had been kissing, longer than we would have because we knew, or I knew, that the kiss would be succeeded by my departure. So we kissed, and it may have lasted for many, many minutes, but it also seemed to have lasted for such a short time. The logic of kissing has, traditionally, eluded me. Sex is easy to negotiate with, because the transactional interplay of giving and receiving aims to achieve specific outcomes. Since kissing isn’t expected to lead to an orgasm, it is rarely seen as a process in the way sex is. It is instead viewed by us as an intermediary, always leading towards something else, which is usually intercourse. It is only in romantic relationships, I think, that kissing manages to attain a respectful status of its own. Since I have never been in a romantic relationship, I have rarely understood kissing, let alone excelled at it. I feel I am an amateur wanderer every time I kiss, not knowing what to do and not knowing how to feel. When I kissed Copernicus, I was still a wanderer, but I no longer desired for the journey to culminate. I cannot explain why, but I wished to prolong that time of respite so much that I started to experience the beginnings of dejection during the kiss itself, knowing its inevitable termination. I could not make sense of this feeling then, but my desire to continue the kiss was earnest.
But he ruined this significant experience by bringing my bag from his bedroom, as though to say that he couldn’t bear to see me enter his room again, even for the purpose of procuring my own bag, and that I must leave at once. How strange, that a kiss cannot last forever but I am supposed to leave for-ever, whatever that meant at that moment in time. The violence of this gesture heralded the violence that was to follow it, when, precisely at the moment when I longed to kiss him once more, at the door, he said, ‘Best of luck out there.’
Some scholars of French literature argue that the long nineteenth century hasn’t really ended; the continuing trends in French literature make it impossible for such scholars to conform to normative forms of periodisation that are widely used by literary theorists to make sense of changing trends in national literatures. It is continuation, then, that makes the possibility of an abrupt end seem ridiculous. Something changed in the few minutes in which I left the bedroom and entered the hallway. This change must have marked for him an alteration that made a definite ending not just feasible, but necessary.
I have never been an admirer of strictly codified beginnings and endings. Did our encounter, for instance, begin on Bumble, on the bridge above River Kelvin, or in his bedroom? Each of these beginnings produces a slightly different story. His ‘Best of luck out there,’ however, makes it impossible to neglect the definitive ending he managed to transcribe for each possible version of the story. No matter how I revisit the beginning, there is no way past such a farewell.
Because he marked the ending in a manner so inconsiderate, so indelicate, I did not dare to reach out or make my presence known when I saw him in a public library I frequently visit. That evening, I was drenched and unnerved following a meeting with a friend. I decided to stop at the library for some time, to breathe, when I saw him. I halted for a few seconds to confirm it was him. When the realisation dawned on me, filling me at once with longing and despair, I went upstairs as fast but as delicately as I could. I considered my self-imposed exile from his presence a necessity, for he looked extraordinary whereas I was neither dressed nor emotionally prepared for the male gaze.
The chair on which I sat provided me with sufficient opportunities of observation. Downstairs, he leaned back as he read his book, sometimes holding it with one hand instead of two. He got up from time to time and walked to and fro in front of the sofa on which he sat, presumably thinking about what he had just read. I observed his strides in the small space of the library with amusement.
That evening, despite being drenched, I became infected with joy. I doubt if it was his presence or his riveting performance that made me so happy. It was, I suppose, the mere unpredictability of the sighting that brought me such pleasure. Seeing him caught me off guard on a day that I had branded as miserable. I called off my plans to hook up, the first I had organised since departing from his house, and, instead, sat in the lounge of the main building in my student accommodation, reading the first volume of a book I had recently borrowed from the library, a book that made me smile so many times that I lost track of time and went back to my flat hours later than I thought I would.
Now, the same evening seems to me a token from a past to which I feel I don’t have any claim. It appears to me a memory so unreal that it could not have happened, even though it did. I say this because in the course of one of my visits to the library I saw him again, and I know he must have seen me too, because there was an odd twinkle on his face that seemed to suggest his awareness of my presence and his indifference to it. By then, he must have viewed my latest message, though he seemed to have ignored it, depriving me of the dignity of a response. I should have looked away, but I forgot social protocol and stared at him. Meanwhile, he looked straight. We walked past each other.
This happened so casually that I could barely believe it was him. I turned back, as if looking at him leaving, from behind, could have resolved for me the mystery of how a face, that felt like wheat flour in my hands, could be capable of exhibiting such indifference. I proceeded to walk to the library, the very archive of knowledge, even as I quickly started to recognise the visitation as ridiculous. To what extent could such an archive ever help in the acquisition of knowledge when the meaning of my encounters with him, which, at once, are and are not a part of everyday life, will always elude me? No matter how many times I visit the library, I will never know, much less understand, these encounters.
The next month, I remained unsettled with restlessness. He must have, on the other hand, been consumed with bitterness against me, for he, out of nowhere, decided to unmatch me on Bumble. This couldn’t have been unintentional. Rejecting someone on Bumble after successfully matching them and starting a chat is a process, not an accident. He would have first opened our chat, clicked on the three dots on the right corner at the top, and selected ‘unmatch.’ Bumble would have prompted him, as though on my behalf, to ensure that he knew the consequences of his decision. It would have told him that if he chose to select the unmatch option, we wouldn’t be able to contact each other or see each other’s profiles again. But Copernicus must have dismissed the warning. He did add two new pictures to his profile before unmatching, which I, as an enthusiast, undoubtedly noticed in time, but he spurned Bumble’s warning, just like he had spurned the last message I had sent him, soliciting his company on Friday.
His abrupt decision evinced an otherness on his part that surprised me. That morning, upon discovering his rejection, I suspended my habits and went back to my bed, sleeping, in effect, for over eighteen hours, unconcerned by the fact that I was supposed to join a panel that day. His decision to walk away seemed to me a callous display of arrogance, one that made it impossible to feel anything but pathetic. But I was not just offended. I was concerned. In the wake of the unsettlement he had caused with his departure, I was tempted to reconstruct the way I wanted to remember him and it is precisely this temptation that made me concerned. I felt deeply uncomfortable with my newfound desire to mischaracterise our encounter, even when it served the purpose of a survival strategy. I was, for instance, already starting to malign a compliment he offered me by remembering Judith Butler’s apt response to Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. And then, remembering how he had told me that he knew a particular book that I brought up in my conversation with him in his bedroom, one that he hadn’t read but one with which he claimed familiarity, I concluded that he must be one of those foolish fucks who reads book summaries rather than books. I could not, I kept reminding myself, distort my memory to create a narrative that made it easier to grapple with his departure, but I kept corrupting my fragmented endeavours at recollection. Sleep-induced unconsciousness, lasting eighteen hours, became for me a timely strategy to temporally configure my life. It made me avoid not only thinking about him, but also attempting the odious task of reconstructing him in my memory at a time when my body felt uninhabitable.
Once I woke up, no longer confined to my bed by means of devious stratagems that I had deployed to avoid my pathetic reality, my attempt at maintaining a straight face failed within twenty-four hours. It wasn’t as though I was unwilling to accept what I understood as rejection. It was, I suppose, the way Bumble captioned my pain that sculpted my anguish: ‘Looks like Copernicus ended the chat. They weren’t feeling it this time, but now you can find someone else who is!’ It was Bumble’s audacity to include an exclamation mark that pained me. They could have sent some chocolates and a cup of steaming hot coffee, but instead they weaponised his departure to mock me with an exclamation mark. Truthfully, it would have been less hurtful if he would have invited someone over to his house immediately after throwing me out. But when Bumble said that he wasn’t ‘feeling it this time,’ I didn’t know what to do. It felt so helpless to know that a man couldn’t feel ‘it.’What did ‘it’ mean and what must have I done to prevent him from feeling ‘it’? Three minutes after I started crying, I called my best friend, hoping my voice would testify to my disturbance and petition her for help. She had been scrolling on Instagram while attempting to shit in her Boston residence, but she picked up my call within five seconds and succeeded in making the tears stop within fifty minutes.
I didn’t see Copernicus at the library again, not after his blatant exhibition of his indifference to my existence became clear, and so I continued to blame myself for ruining a perfectly agreeable public space for him with my presence. He must have noticed me looking at him from upstairs, I thought; he must have been creeped out. Days passed, but my uncertainty and my knowledge of my cruel inadequacy remained with me. The weekly recurrence of Friday, the day on which I had proposed to meet again in my last message that he had ignored, became a kernel for mourning this inadequacy. Fridays assumed an individual character and functioned as reminders of his exit strategy, the permanence of which now appeared almost more appalling than the ghastly ‘Best of luck out there’ text message.
The next month, I was forced to walk along the Great Western Road in my search for the building in which I was supposed to chair a session on masculinity and feminist pedagogies organised by the Centre of Gender History. The discussion was supposed to focus on the role that men play as participants in Women’s and Gender Studies classrooms, both as students and teachers. It was the second day, the worst day, of my menstruation cycle, but my excitement for the discussion was unaffected. I committed myself to Google Maps as I tried to locate the designated building, but my attempts at navigation were futile. That is when I saw him.
He walked towards me and I, an imitator, walked towards him. As I moved forward, I felt something spread across my face, intensifying in magnitude. It was a smile. On his face, I detected an expression of composed unconcern, seeing which I concluded that I could not offer him the adornment of a smile. It felt too inappropriate. I looked sideways as I attempted to contract my muscles. I couldn’t risk forgetting the protocol that he had established for us, one according to which we pretended that we didn’t recognise each other in public. Following this absurd protocol appeared non-optional because I knew that I couldn’t keep looking at him with something akin to hope, only to see him reject yet another opportunity to acknowledge me. That is why I looked sideways.
I couldn’t observe his face when he came closer and walked past me, but I could sense that he hadn’t even bothered to look away, that he had, in his sea of privilege, the luxury to look straight whereas I was condemned with the burden of mortification. And so, we walked past each other. The pavement was narrow, but our arms didn’t touch. I stood there, no more, for him, than a stranger one passes by on weekdays after work but whose face one doesn’t bother to register. As a passive puppet of habit, I turned back. Of course I turned back. It was him and it would have been so vulgar to have continued walking without a respectable pause while knowing he was there. I paused, motionless, and watched his swift, thoughtless movement abandon me again.
Desertion was not something I imagined I would associate with Copernicus. He seemed too infected with optimism, too blessed with hope, to summon the desire for desertion. After our final kiss at his house, I had disclosed to him that he was the first person I had kissed outside of sex. The final kiss was neither an attempt to prompt intercourse nor an accompaniment to intercourse. It was a kiss. It didn’t inspire fornication. It was itself the outcome of longing. I added, to provide him with more context, that I never had a boyfriend owing to my reservations with romantic relationships and so I had never been kissed outside of a hookup with a stranger. His immediate response was: ‘And did the kiss make you reconsider your interest in relationships?’ I laughed and said that it didn’t. Kisses aren’t adequate counterparts to intellectual concerns. Perhaps people could be. But I didn’t say that. A moment later, he, too, laughed, or attempted to, and said, ‘Right. That would have been weird.’ He could have mocked me for choosing to stay single all these years or for not having been kissed by someone special. Instead, he asked me if the kiss was enough to change my mind and I, despite committing the whole of my being to his lips before leaving his house, told him it wasn’t.
How abominable must I have been for this incomprehensibly expectant man to have been discarded from his sight not once, but twice on the same afternoon. How abominable indeed, possibly in more ways than I can imagine. For as I continued walking in circles due to my inability to identify the precise location of the building, I ended up confronting him again. This second time, we didn’t even walk past each other: he turned to his right to avoid a possible confrontation. I exhaled and steadied myself. My anticipation of the discussion made his reclusion more bearable than it would have been, for I knew I couldn’t afford distraction, much less suffering.
I located the building in time. Once the discussion wrapped up, I rushed to Edinburgh to join a reading circle I was looking forward to attending. I was prepared to walk for forty minutes, starting from Edinburgh’s train station, to reach the venue, but Google Maps stopped working on my phone. I could barely understand which direction I was supposed to take and so I meandered along the path in a haphazard fashion. Every second lost in my confused marching on unfamiliar roads increased my agony. I was advised to take a taxi after twenty minutes of misery caused me to panic. Once I was seated, I started crying, for I felt helpless. My incapability to navigate the journey on my own appeared as a painful symptom of my inadequacy to function as an adult, which, when I weighed alongside the encounters that had transpired earlier that afternoon, caused an overwhelming ache in my bones, even as I commanded myself to focus on the radiance of the hues imprinted in the sky instead. Unable, once again, to put an end to my half-aloud cries, I could not bring myself to concentrate on anything, not even the magnificent clouds, but my distress.
That evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about the electric lamp that someone in the reading circle had brought with themselves. The bulb, from which the light gleamed, illuminated everything around it, making things identifiable and revealing them for what they are. But even as we could perhaps perceive and know objects illuminated by its light, we couldn’t know people, no matter how bright it shone. We could only perceive them and we could only speculate. It was this silly, silly thought that made Copernicus’ abandonment feel less pathetic. Behind the mask he adorned, the mask I perceived in my encounters with him, there was so much to which I lacked access. In those two encounters that afternoon, I concluded that I could only perceive him; knowing him was a privilege to which I had no claim whatsoever.
And so, when, after two days, I saw him again at a convention, I didn’t feel irreparably disoriented. I saw him and he saw me; he must have caught me looking at him because he wouldn’t have initiated eye contact. I was so taken aback by the attention he granted me that morning that I didn’t even register how I felt. I was so hooked. At that moment, I could only see his face. Everything else became a part of a blur that my vision deemed unimportant. We must have looked at each other for at least two seconds before I turned my head away, embarrassed at the prospect of being discovered by people around us.
Minutes later, I walked away, reminding myself to forget the transpired eye contact since its meaning was ungraspable: neither did it reveal a change in his underlying character nor did it undo his earlier performances of aloofness. Perhaps, in his mind, I was nothing more than an object of pity, rendered such by her petty clinginess and her lamentable unwillingness to accept his non-acceptance. Or perhaps I was even more detested by him than my senses allowed me to perceive.
I couldn’t, I reminded myself, ascribe meaning to what his physiognomy indicated. There was so much I didn’t and couldn’t know. And so, I departed in silence lest I should ruin the convention for him, just like I had ruined the library. I departed with the unease of knowing how little I knew, let alone understood, the very encounters whose traces and memories had infiltrated my everyday life. I departed, knowing how the restlessness these encounters had prompted would not cease, but would make me fall apart, little by little, like sand falling from a fist, every single day.
In the course of publishing “An Encounter,” I was asked: “who gets to decide whether a work is fictional or not?” Ann Patchett’s remark is instructive: “We all turn our lives into stories…This is also a way we have of protecting ourselves. It would be too painful to relive a childhood illness or the death of your best friend every time you had to speak of it. By telling the story from the story, instead of from the actual events, we are able to distance ourselves from our suffering.” Equally useful is Michel de Montaigne’s declaration: “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” Patchett allows us to locate truth in a work of fiction whereas Montaigne prompts us to speculate if the non-fiction we write is, in fact, an idiom of fiction. For various reasons, the question of this piece’s fictionality, or the lack thereof, is neither my say-so nor your sole privilege. Perhaps one way to negotiate with my refusal to provide a conclusive answer is to think of “An Encounter” as the Schrödinger’s cat that is creative non-fiction.
Bollywood fans will of course recognise the image from the classic scene in the movie Awara. What does this sentimental classic have to do with the story above with its hyperaware characters? Well, hyperawareness has a ritualistic aspect to it — one does not question one’s consciousness as much as perform the ritual of questioning it. On the other hand, sentimentality is also easily ritualised, and thus the sentimental sensibility is plagued with feelings that have the logical inevitability of thoughts. Of course, the “postmodern” “romantic” “encounter” is far removed from the classic romantic encounter, but move it far enough, it can, like T. S. Eliot’s hero, double back to where the first cave heroine started. We nod our heads in approval, therefore, when our heroine says at the beginning of the story: “I met him on top of a bridge, with river water roaring beneath us. From my point of view, our first encounter retains cinematic value.”
Mridula Sharma (author)
Mridula Sharma is a scholar and a writer. She has received grants and scholarships for both academic research and creative writing. She was shortlisted for Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diversity Grant in 2021 and selected for The Kenyon Review’s Writers Workshop in 2023. Most recently, she has been awarded the Linda Stein Upstander Award by Pennsylvania State University. She enjoys reading, writing, and thinking.