My friend Marian said it best.
"I feel like when that boy went into the theater, he jerked me in there with him. Like I'm able to imagine it as my own child doing what I fear the most. And that is just plain flat screwed up. It is impossible for me to look at situations like this objectively."
He's a monster. A cold-blooded, heartless killer, dressed as a cartoon character, wielding weapons, wearing a gas mask, shooting indiscriminately. He's the stereotype of every schizophrenic in every movie and TV drama ever made. He is the projection of one of my greatest fears for my own child.
When I look at the mugshot of James Holmes, now splashed on every Internet news site, I don't see the shock of orangey-red hair, or the unshaven chin. I see bewilderment, confusion, and fear in his expressive eyes.
And I've seen those eyes before on my child, more times than I care to count, nearly always from behind the locked doors of a psychiatric ward.
Now, we don't yet know if James Holmes has a mental illness. We don't yet know if he was showing signs of slipping into insanity, if anyone tried to get him help, if he reached out to anyone (other than early reports that he may have sent some sort of manifesto to a psychiatrist).
I take twisted comfort in the fact that my child's mental illness manifested and was diagnosed in childhood. Unlike Arlene Holmes, who is now living the nightmare that could befall any parent of a child that slips into insanity as a legal adult, I had control. I could insist my child be treated, take his meds, go to therapy and residential treatment. I could shield him from the world when he perceived it as dangerous and felt the overwhelming desire to lash out violently. I could instill in him the importance of continuing his treatment for the rest of his life, making it habit before I lost my grip on his daily routine.
I pray the lessons will stick as he turns 18 this week and I legally lose that control. In the shadowy recesses of the story of Aurora, I can see myself as the mother of the monster. And I fall on my knees nightly and pray that in the shadowy recesses is where that possibility will stay.