April 14th, 2011 - Dylan Morison
In 2011, I lost one of my oldest friends, the way you lose something precious to you when you’re not paying attention. The last time I’d seen them was the summer before I’d turned sixteen. Already, they’d begun train hopping and hitchhiking along the west coast between Portland and Seattle. I was living in Nashville, TN, where I’d moved with my mom at the end of the 5th grade. A whole country separated us, and even though I had family in Portland still, I had lost track with anyone that had ever been connected to my friend years earlier. I didn’t even remember their names. Despite the rise of social media, I could sense how easy it would be to lose track of someone like them. They shunned Facebook and shaved half their hair. The things I admired about them, the things that made them brave, also scared me. I was never going to be a train hopper: I was afraid of getting lice, and I still wanted to go to college, even if I couldn’t admit that to anyone. So, on that grey, wet day in 2011, as I listened to the recording that said their phone was disconnected, I just told myself not to think about it—I figured they would be in touch when they could. The strings that connected us splintered and broke in a way that was irreparable. I suppose it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Sometimes things just happen the way they do. A cheap cell phone slips from a pocket, is smashed beneath a train wheel or sent flying down the side of a mountain.
I remember the loss of this friend in a series of others over the next ten years. My relationship with my dad deteriorated. I lost a lot of peers and community members to illness, addiction, and suicide. These losses would often lead me to scour the internet for clues about my missing friend. In 2012, I read that they’d been arrested at an Occupy protest in downtown Portland. For years, as I traveled and moved from Nashville, to Asheville, to Baltimore, I always scanned the faces of crust punks and street musicians as they asked for spare change on the side of the road. I never really let myself cry about it. I just kept moving forward, but I never stopped looking.
About once a year, I look into what it would take for me to become a licensed private investigator. I’ve always resented that in order to be a detective, you first had to be a cop. Even though I’ve committed to being a writer, a part of me will always research careers in criminology. In the novels and short stories I’ve written over the past decade, one motif continues: The missing friend.
I finally tracked them down, just a few weeks ago. Their name is Max now, their pronouns are they/them and they’re living a peaceful plant-filled life in Texas.
I sent them a friend request on Facebook: “Is that you??”
It was them, and they responded within minutes.
All this time, they’d been looking for me, too.
We’ve spent the past month getting to know each other again. I told Max my side of the story and I cried when they told me theirs. They couldn’t really remember the last time they saw me. They were already involved with drugs and some other toxic relationships. The next ten years, from 17 to 27, would be a time of profound grief and growth for both of us. As I let myself crack open with the joy of recovering our friendship, I felt all the grief I’d been compartmentalizing for the past decade. I cried as I read their messages. They said they still loved me, that they always had. The sweet relief and sadness felt profound to me. To find Max again, to know that they were out there all this time, still loving me. It helps. It eases some of the pain of the years of loss; it doesn’t erase it, but it transforms it.
Dylan Morison is a fiction writer and teacher currently based out of Baltimore, Maryland and Nashville, TN. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her writing has appeared in The Feminist Wire, Opaque Quarterly, and Landfill Magazine and has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. She has an adorable dog named Bunny. Twitter: @bydylanmorison
Dylan encourages you to consider donating to Max’s funds for top surgery. Please follow this link: Here.