I spent my birthday speeding through the Mojave with C., and it was the best celebration I could ask for. Time and space get wobbly in the desert. I think I’m puttering along, but the speedometer says 98. Hundred-mile distances collapse, yet the interesting scenery on the horizon never seems to draw closer.

Thirty minutes southwest of Vegas, my heart leapt when I saw I had no signal. It’s so rare to find myself out of range, unreachable, and I savored the sensation. (It rarely occurs to me that I can turn my telephone off.) We zipped along the two-lane ribbons that carved up Bristol Lake, a dried-up landscape of mud, gypsum, and pyramidal mounds that looked ritualistic and alien. (Bristol Lake has 2.3 stars on Google.)

An hour later, a familiar thrum moved through my belly, and my hand twitched, wanting to check my phone. But I was still out of range. What was I missing? I imagined all the messages and demands piling up, all the possible emergencies. I felt negligent, as if I’d abandoned my post.

When we reached Twentynine Palms, I checked my messages in a Denny’s parking lot: a birthday wish from a friend, a spam message for better financing, and an email alerting me to the release of a new album. I joined C. in a red pleather booth, ordered a Grand Slamwich, and marveled at the rot in my brain.

My little tics and anxieties seem to be moving from the vexing to the comic. Perhaps this is a happy side effect of getting older.