The first day of Mr. Hiller’s government class started off like the first day of the five classes that preceded it. He started off taking roll. As anyone that doesn’t go by their formal first name will tell you, you usually spend the first day of the class correcting the teacher. He said “Alejandro” and you say “Alex” or he says Harold and you say “Trey”. So when Hiller said “William Truman” I said “I go by Will.”

He looked at me coldly and said “I don’t care.” It was not the start of a beautiful term in his class. I can’t say that I was his least favorite student because he really didn’t seem to like any of us. The guy who sat next to me, who I came to think of as “Dude”, never knew the answer to any of the questions that he was asked, which of course made Hiller ask him questions more frequently than anybody else in the class. I knew most of the answers and was anxious to answer if only to save my classmates any embarrassment, so he looked at me like a suck-up. Sitting in front of me was my friend Oswald Framingtonand sitting in front of him was a bully who later became my friend named Nick Soele. Nick would spend whatever free time he had trying to humiliate Oswald, which wasn’t hard. Hiller didn’t like Nick because he was a billy. He didn’t like Oswald because he whined that Nick was a bully.

About two-thirds the way through the first semester, some news was echoing through Mayne High School. “Did you hear about Cody Weaver?” I’d be asked.

“Who’s Cody Weaver?” I asked.

“I don’t know, some guy.”

“Oh. What’s the news?”

“He killed himself over the weekend!” someone would say. Everybody wanted to be the guy that told somebody even though as near as I could tell Weaver was no more than some guy to anybody that was so anxious to tell his story.

I happened to see Nick early in the day and he asked me the question that everybody else did except that he left off Cody’s last name. By this point I was tired of saying that I didn’t know who Cody was because as the day progressed everybody seemed to have a closer connection or relationship to the post-humous high school celebrity of the day and the fact that I didn’t know him was suddenly becoming noteworthy to people I was almost certain didn’t know who he was at the beginning of the day. So to get the conversation moving, I pretended that I knew who Cody was. “You should totally go see the school counselor. It’s a total get-out-of-class free card!”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you probably knew him better half of these jackasses saying that they were tight.”

I stared at him blankly.

He got the message. “Man, you liked loaned him your pencil every other day!”

Then the little light over my head turned on. Not just my pencil, but all of his supplies. And not every other day, but every day that he was there. Cody Weaver was Dude. “Wait,” I asked, “he hung himself?” In my own head I added the word “Successfully?”

I hadn’t made the connection for a couple reasons. First, because I’d given him a nickname I hadn’t bothered to commit his actual name to memory. I vaguely recalled it being something like Cody or Toby or Corey or something like that. He definitely didn’t strike me as a Code Weaver, though. I’d been assuming all day that Cody was some sort of preppy white kid. Dude was darkly Hispanic and rarely wore anything more distinguishable than a conspicious earring and typical thuggy attire.

Dude was one of those people that initially came off as cocky from a pretty far distance if only because he was aesthetically like people that were generally (or maybe near-universally) cocky. He had a pretty hot girlfriend and was a good looking guy in spite of himself. From a distance, he wasn’t the sort of guy that you would think would do such a thing. The more I thought about it, though, the less bizarre it sounded. Dude was three things: dumb, irresponsible, and vaguely aware that he was dumb and irresponsible. Every day he would walk in without his book or any supplies. Then, if anything was required, he would freak out over the fact that he was so unprepared and would curse himself out (with frequent assists from Hiller). One day I made sure to bring an extra pencil and some paper to give him so that it might last him for a while and I wouldn’t hear the stream of self-condemnation that was kind of a drag at the end of the day. He took the stuff home with him and I never saw it again. From that point forward I actually kept a Dude Folder with a minimum of supplies that I would give him at the beginning of the class and take back at the end. I’d also let him use my book and I would read off the book of the cute girl that sat on the other side of me or, if desperately in a pinch, Oswald. During collaborative homework assignments, I’d just give him my answers. Turned out that he and I had three of the same teachers, though Hiller’s was the only class we had together. The guy who couldn’t remember a pencil to save his life could remember to bring his homework from those other classes so that I could take a look.

I don’t know what it says about me that I really didn’t think that much of his death. It didn’t really bother me. As I started thinking about the self-criticism that in hindsight sounded more like self-loathing, it was more analytical than empathetic. Word came out that he left a note saying that he couldn’t live without his girlfriend. The thing is that his girlfriend hadn’t left him. A rival of his just convinced him that she was going to (with no substantiation). The guy, someone I was actually friends with in junior high, actually bragged about pushing his rival over the edge in pursuit of the hand of his girlfriend. It didn’t take two months before he and she actually did start dating. Just as Cody became Dude to me, that guy became Jackal.

As mentioned before, he and I had two other teachers in common as well as Hiller. One thing that I remember about that day was that of the three, Hiller was the only one that seemed affected. His sharpness and antagonism were completely gone. Maybe it was because I was there when he had the class with the empty chair where the now-dead student was. Maybe he was upset about something else entirely. Really, though, I’m inclined to believe that it was because the student that he’d spent so much time deriding as worthless had come to the same conclusion about himself. Whatever the case, Hiller wasn’t the same after that.


Category: Ghostland, School

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4 Responses to Who The Hell is Cody Weaver?

  1. Becky says:

    Sounds like Mr. Hiller got a little perspective… When I was in 8th grade, a 9th grader in my youth group committed suicide by shooting himself b/c he was suspended from school that day. I was pretty shocked and it still resonates with me that someone that young could think that life was no longer worth living when the best was yet to come.

  2. kevin says:

    Your story reminds me of an 8th grade classmate named Dietrich, who sat next to me in science class. (Don’t worry, no one dies in this story.) Dietrich was one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was also one of the most disorganized. One time, we were doing a lollipop fundraiser, where all the kids sell lollipops to each other and somehow money is raised. I bet Dietrick a lollipop that he couldn’t find his homework. He opened his backpack, rummaged through it aimlessly for a couple of minutes, then handed me a lollipop. Five minutes later, he found his homework.

  3. Barry says:

    I know it’s probably impossible, but it’s important as parents to help our kids understand perspective at a young age. Perspective, and how to deal with the “traumas” of youth by putting them in perspective with real life. Losing a girlfriend (or the rumor of losing one) can obviously be traumatic. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t be, really. But we have to teach kids that in life, the opportunity exists for a lot of relationships (Will’s certainly an example of this 😉 ) So that while the girl (or guy) may be the total love-of-your-life-and-I’ll-never-love-another at 16, parents need to assure their kids that they will get over it, the pain will go away, and they will (most likely, though you don’t tell them that) find another person someday they like just as well or even more. Or that they may get together with the former one again. Regardless, it seems “Dude”‘s self-recrimination could’ve been eased if his parents had cared more about his sense of worth and belonging.

    Sounds like a troubled home life with not much love or encouragement had more to do with it than anything. Which is why it’s up to parents to always be on top of their kids moods and make sure they know they’re loved and lovable.

  4. trumwill says:

    Barry,

    I got the feeling that Cody came from a pretty broken home. If nothing else, the fact that he was able to aimlessly drift through school as he apparently had was an indication that something at home wasn’t right. So I agree with your assessment.

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