The Missing Year, Part 2 | Transcript

A dial turning on its axis

[slow, melodic slide guitar and spare synthesizer stabs play in the background]

DWAYNE: Log in. User 152.

DWAYNE: Hey, Mama. It’s Dwayne.

[deep breath]

DWAYNE: It’s Sunday. This is the…third message I’m sending you. I don’t even know if you’re getting these but either way I hope you’re staying indoors and I hope you’re staying safe.

DWAYNE: Mama, I gotta warn you, this message is gonna be long. Even longer than the last one but there’s a lot on my mind.

DWAYNE: That work trip I told you about? Gotta level with you, that’s more than a trip. For about the past month or so, I’ve been working outside of the city limits. I can’t tell you exactly where we are. I’m calling from a drop point right now so it won’t do good to track me here, either. But trust: I’m safe.

DWAYNE: The reason I’m here is…Mama, something’s not right. Look at what they did to us after the Big Drought. Look at what happened to people who were out of work, like me. They would’ve let me die out there, begging for water.

DWAYNE: You didn’t see those ration lines, all the people they turned away. Ma, I saw a little boy, maybe Freddie’s age at most. He was waiting for 4 hours in the sun, alone. When they tried to scan his implant you know what they said? “No reading.” They said reboot and try again tomorrow and they made this boy…

[deep sigh]

DWAYNE: I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. In fact, I don’t think I did believe it until I said it out loud just now. Meanwhile, people inside the geo-fence are swimming and showering in purified water.

DWAYNE: The people here, in this community, we’re all here to build a new future. We’re not trying to change the minds of folks who take hot showers while little Black boys can’t drink water — not yet anyway. That world is…it’s not well. We cannot change that. What we can do is offer something else. We’re building back and we’re building back stronger. Mama, I…


DWAYNE: I tell you I’m gonna bring you out here when this is all done. It’s a whole city and I’m just the stubborn son of a bitch…

DWAYNE: You know, you always told me when I was little: this life is gonna be real hard for you. It’s gonna be hard because you’re Black and it’s gonna be double hard because you don’t take shit from anyone. Remember when I was little? Any time you said “no,” the first thing I said back was, “why?”

[mellow laugh]

DWAYNE: You didn’t like that. Turns out, no one else does either.

DWAYNE: I used to be really proud of that. And then I got frustrated and I thought what if I was more easygoing, see if I could make that life work. Gotta admit it became a little easier to make money…meet girls…all that.


DWAYNE: But there was…something missing. When I was being stubborn for my own sake, it’s like it didn’t matter. That’s why I could take it or leave it. But when I was being stubborn for someone else’s sake, that was like…I don’t know…a superpower.

DWAYNE: Maybe it’s because I didn’t have kids. One day, mama, I promise I’ll make you a grandma. But for now, this community — these are my kids. I’m saying “Why not? Why can’t they have a better life? Why can’t we do that for them?”

DWAYNE: Anyway, I’m starting to sound crazy. Trust that I’m doing the right thing, no matter what you hear. Okay? Most important of all: I love you, I miss you.

DWAYNE: I’ll call back next week. With good news.


DWAYNE: Encrypt message. Schedule delivery for…2 hours from now. Log out.