Yesterday evening, several hundred people remembered homeless individuals who died in Minneapolis over the past year.
Through frigid streets, marchers carried signs bearing the first names of the dead. You can see some of those names in the photo published in the newspaper—Joseph, Gregory, Raul, Larnell, Lawrence and Haley. There were 118 in all who had candles lit in their memory.
I knew one of the dead, Rick, just barely. But the event reminded me of someone in Colorado I knew better. So I dug up a post I drafted last January and then set aside because it was too painful and I wasn't sure whether it was right to make public.
Like those anonymous folks who died in the city, Cody's death did not make the newspaper in Grand Junction, not even as a funeral notice, but that didn't stop it from ripping out my heart.
When I learned of Cody's death, I searched for more information about the quiet young man with the slight speech impediment. His hometown paper in Craig ran a brief death notice. Otherwise, his life was expressed only in terse fragments appearing in the local newspaper's Blotter.
The Blotter, or the Friends and Family Section as it's ironically known among the homeless population, is a litany of mostly misdemeanors culled from daily police reports. The lead story, usually a more serious crime with juicy details, may merit a few paragraphs. The remaining mentions are one-liners.
If you're homeless, not having a front lamp on your bicycle prevents the light from being stolen. Being cited for no headlamp is the equivalent of being pulled over for failing to signal a lane change, a reason to check for more serious infractions. And since there were none, I can imagine Cody being irate.
In May 2015, he was charged with disorderly conduct as a result of a fight in the nearby city park.
I recall a morning that summer at the Day Center when a pesky guy with his own anger issues made some comments that set Cody off. Rather than have a confrontation inside, Cody banged out the door and went across the street. He took out a clasp knife, stuck it in the ground and then stepped away to show he would not use it against the man.
The other fellow was ready to rumble and started for the door.
Someone inside said, "I wouldn't do that, young fella." Others nodded their heads. "You don't want to fight Cody," another said. "You don't," said a third.
The fiery fellow bowed to the wisdom of the pack and there was no fight.
Google turned up another item in June: "Cody Aitken was contacted near 13th St and Main St. He showed to have..." Even then the link went to an expired police report; the link has since disappeared entirely.
His last news mention was even briefer: "Cody Aitken, 35, is accused of disorderly conduct on July 4."
YouTube has no videos of how softly he spoke, which he did perhaps to conceal that his r's came out as w's. There are no photos that show how his eyes shifted to the corners when he expressed irony or amusement.
There are no records of the medications he took to keep himself steady. If anything, those Blotter entries record what happened when his meds failed. They don't tell the story of when he panicked without them and tried to self-medicate with meth.
He was just one in a rotating cast enacting mini dramas of disorderly conduct, trespassing, drunkenness and drug use.
A name passing in a motley parade on a cold winter night.
A candle extinguished in a church one night after everyone went home.