A long time ago now, I liked this girl who lived in Austin, Texas. Back then I lived alone in Baltimore and had nothing much to do there, so I would use the money I made doing clinical trials to fly around and see people. I went to a lot of places that summer . . . but every two weeks or so I’d fly to Austin to see her. I would stay for a week and we would hang out every night in her room in this big house she lived in close to downtown. And at the end of one of those trips, just as summer was ending too, I took a midnight bus from Austin to New Orleans, which takes about nine hours. I went to New Orleans to see Leila, whom I had helped move there a few months before. I always think about this though: that during that whole ride there, in the dark nothing between Austin and New Orleans, across the Texas and Louisiana border, she and I texted each other for hours until she finally fell asleep. This was a pre-smartphone world . . . so it’s easy to romanticize it now, how I would sit there and key in letters one at a time with the number pad, and read over what I had written three times to make sure I had got it right. And then I’d stare out the window at the refinery towers in the distance, which blew fire into the night sky and lit the undersides of clouds, and wait for her to respond. Sometimes she’d write back immediately, and other times there would be long lapses since she was painting. It was so exciting. When I think about it now I feel a sadness because I don’t think such a thing is possible anymore in that way. It was a unique period of my life when I was totally free. Pretty much all I thought about was this girl and I missed her like hell when I was away from her. That long bus ride, with the cabin dark and everyone around me asleep, is a sort of emblematic memory to me, like a beacon for that whole era. In my mind it sums up what my life was then, which was exciting and strange in a way that I’ll just never know again.