I sit in cool darkness, the theater vibrant with murmuring excitement. A sense of happiness–joy, even–fills the theater. Strangers speak as friends, united in a shared cinematic passion. And 350 miles away, a coward readies his guns.
Cinema is escape. Cinema is a place to go where nothing matters but the serious silliness of a celluloid story. The Dark Knight Rises, whose screening I am attending this night, is a movie I intend to review. As the climax of director Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman trilogy, I am nearly certain it will be a glowing review.
The previews begin, the eager buzz quiets a bit. An entire high school drama class is in attendance, though, so the definition of the word “quiets” might be stretched somewhat in this case.
The friendly young girl at the concession counter gave me some extra cheese for my nachos, and for once I my cheese outlasts my chips. By the time the last preview fades, and the opening producer/director credits roll, I deposit the empty container in the trash can at the back of the theater, and settle into my seat, notepad in hand in case I need to jot some quick notes in the dark.
Within fifteen minutes, I close the notepad, fully engrossed in the movie. Bane takes over the Gotham Stock Exchange, he and his henchman firing their weapons, over and over and over. The Batman, eight years gone and now perceived a villain, is nowhere to be found.
In Aurora, the coward triggers the tear gas. With the fictional Bane and his henchmen, he opens fire. At first, the coward’s vile act of brutality is thought to be somehow part of the movie. As bodies begin to fall, to bleed, it is clear he is, in fact, a coward, and not a misguided marketing ploy.
In Dodge City, the movie passes as movies do: heroes fight villains; villains win, but not really; there are twists; pulses rise, adrenaline rushes; endorphins excite the minds of all present. As the final credits fill the screen, applause swells in the theater, a show of appreciation for Nolan’s masterpiece.
In Aurora, doctors fight to save the lives of those wounded by the coward. Mothers… fathers… sons… husbands… wives… daughters… girlfriends… boyfriends… every one of the dozens of victims, someone to somebody.
I think, That’s lucky!, when I make the light before it turns red, as Ibegin the 35 mile drive back to my home. I worry, as a sound something like that of a flat tire comes from underneath my car.
Through my mind runs the thought, Boy, it would be really crappy if a flat tire ruined this great night.
In Aurora, doctors save some lives, fail to save others. Phone calls–horrible, awful phone calls–waken parents, spouses, lovers, and friends. Phone calls that no one should ever have to receive tear through the serenity of sleep. Hundreds of people have lost ones they held dear. Others are left to beg the heavens for the survival of those who were “only” wounded.
As my car slips silently down the alley to my home, another thought: I can’t wait to write about that movie! I fumble a bit with my keys, finally entering the coolness of my small house. My computer sits, as always, on the corner of my small desk. I sit, to write, but decide to first see what others are saying.
At first, not a lot, since most are too conscientious to ruin a great movie for others. But then, this, from Scott Van Pelt on Twitter:
Clearly our thoughts with those in Colorado. This is horrific news to hear.
I don’t yet realize to what he is referring, but within seconds, I figure it out. A coward has done what cowards do: prey on those who are vulnerable. The coward has killed men, women, boys, and girls, all without remorse.
In Aurora, the lives that can be saved have been saved. The calls that must be made have been made. The disbelief, anger and terrible, overwhelming sadness, has begun.
There are no easy answers to questions raged into the night sky. Perhaps, in that rage, will come some release. The coward, caught by police without struggle, will pay for his murderous cowardice. Perhaps in justice will come a bit of peace.
Or perhaps, in the simple forward momentum of living life, there is a healing balm. The wounds, deep and terrible, become scars that remind us of what happened, without continually transporting us back to the horror of the moment.
In Aurora, and points far abroad, we mourn the losses, and rage at the coward.