In the creative writing department we have a buddy system. When you’re a freshman you’re paired with a senior who’s supposed to impart their knowledge on you. Same for sophomores and juniors. Most of the time however, things don’t quite work out. Upper classmen, as I’ve learned from being one, are really busy, and under classmen are usually really frightened and afraid to bother upper them.
During my freshman year I was paired with Cody Williams at the end of the first week, on a Friday. Ms. Flaisig the department chair read our names out in the black box and we stood together, shifting back and forth from one foot to another. When Cody finally spoke to me it was in a soft voice, and he kept avoiding eye contact, at last thrusting me a folded up note.
“Congratulations Noah! On being accepted to DA where arts and academics and stress and frustration all meet in a big mess that will soon clear out and make it all worth it…if you are willing to put forth the effort.” How right the first sentence of this note would turn out to be. But two years ago Cody Williams was just a name. He never spoke to me, and I never made an effort to talk to him. I knew nothing about him, but obviously we were both shy people. My focus was on staying alive; finishing multiple short essays for a class called Elements of Style. I’d never been up until 11:30 doing homework before. I was adjusting to high school, and Cody I believe was preparing for the world, jumping into the ocean from the pond.
During our time together as buddies we spoke twice. Once during the arts area meeting at the beginning of the year and then once during my freshman reading when he handed me an envelope. It contained a poem, urging me to continue pushing myself as hard as I could, and five dollars. It seemed ridiculous, five dollars to stand in for a whole year. That was it.
When Cody died, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to say anything because we’d only exchanged a handful of words. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to say anything at all, until the editors for The Artisan said it would be a good idea to write something about him. In that moment, in my chair at nine in the morning it clicked. This article came up for a reason and I felt it was meant for me. I wanted to know who Cody Williams was, and through that process I learned he was a great many things. Among them he was mischievous, funny, intellectual, deep, and often very dark in his writing.
Knowing these things, the next logical step was to ponder why Cody and I were paired. The answer from Ms. Flaisig was surprisingly simple. We share a sense of humor, a writing style, and a reserved way of looking at the world.
Cody’s words to me my freshman year carry much more meaning now. I have grown as a writer, grown comfortable with juggling assignments and often typing entire pieces in the morning or during power hour, and grown closer to the people around me. I think my senior said it best: “Here in the creative writing department we are committed (mostly, though I can only speak for myself I suppose) to staying a family, a close knit cloth of artists who are here to better themselves, and hopefully those around them.”