It took me a long time to understand how loneliness might be a gift, but now I think I’ve got it. Borges’s poem voiced the flip side of that disturbing essay I’d read in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine on loneliness’s consequences and mechanisms. Loneliness might raise one’s blood pressure and fill one with paranoia, but it also offers compensations: a depth of vision, a hungry kind of acuity. When I think of it now, I think of it as a place not dissimilar to the old Hudson river piers: a landscape of danger and potential, inhabited by the shadowy presences of fellow travellers, where one sometimes rounds a corner to see lines of glowing colour drawn on dirty walls.