We have eight paratroopers- small army men, moulded out of coloured plastic with flimsy plastic parachutes. I bought them at Woolworths in Grafton and mailed them to Alex in Hobart. He bought them to Melbourne in a plastic zip-lock bag lined with purple glitter.
It’s Saturday afternoon. We find a multistorey car park which goes above ground instead of below. The man at the entrance barely glances our way as we walk in and take the elevator to the top floor. The sloping concrete is completely devoid of cars and the barriers are only waist high. We walk to the back and lean over. It’s windy today and up here, the breeze has become a proper gale. If I stand still the fabric in my dress billows out and its like we’re in the 1800’s and I’m wearing hoops.
“I’m not afraid of heights,” I say, looking at the alleyway far below, “But I am kind of afraid of falling.”
It isn’t until we disentangle the first paratroopers from his parachute that we realise they aren’t attached. We sit against the concrete wall and I tie tiny knots. We throw the little green man into the air and he spirals up and up. He loops around and comes to rest behind us, on the roof of the car park. We try again. This time he comes to rest just above us, on a ledge. This is disappointing so we go back to watching a man packing a truck beneath us and contemplating vertigo. Suddenly our army man swings into view. Its as though he finally conquered his fear and leaped while we were looking this other way. We go down and retrieve him from the alley. A woman comes out of a warehouse where some kind of theatre rehearsal is happening.
“Oh! An army man!” she says, with a gentle kind of surprise. She doesn’t ask what we’re doing in an alley behind a car park.
Next we find a small shopping mall. It isn’t very tall but, standing two floors above the food court we decide it’ll do. This particular army man is already on his third flight. Despite being in-doors and out of the wind, he still manages to fly the wrong way and get stuck on the roof of the elevator. We finally give up on him.
We find another bank of lifts, in another part of the building and decide to see where they go. There are eight of them. We get in the lift with two rowdy middle aged couples and they ask what floor.
I pick forty-seven after a too long pause because picking the top floor (fifty) might raise suspicion about our motives. We stand awkwardly while the couples laugh loudly. The buttons on the lift start at 35 and, as we go up through the other floors, the small electronic display simply say E5.
The lift doors open and somehow, magically, we are somewhere else. A small balcony loops around the outside of a high courtyard. The walls are mirrored and, far below, are umbrellas and people eating. If the lift was a gateway to a Room of Requirement it couldn’t have created a better place to launch paratroopers.
We sit on a lounge in front of the lifts and I carefully tie parachutes to two paratroopers. We leave a pile of glitter and a note on the second page of a pad beside the phone.
We lean over the edge of the mirrored balcony and I fling the tiny purple man into the void. He falls, gently. Falls and falls and falls. Somewhere past halfway he starts to spin and soon he’s whirling in a tiny circles on his way down. Finally he lands, coming to a gentle stop on the carpet far below. One or two people look up and I wonder what they can see of us from so far away.
We throw the second paratrooper from the opposite side of the balcony. He’s orange and his parachute is only attached by three pieces of string. I’m struck by how very, very far it is to fall, as he wafts downwards. More people look up this time. A woman eating at a table points to her friends. After a moment someone walks over and retrieves him. Maybe he’ll get to fly again later.
Its only when we catch the lift back down and end up where we started that we remember the building we were in didn’t go any higher. We walk outside and can see the towering glass tower high above us but, for the life of us, can’t find another way in. It’s the kind of hotel with a valet but no reception desk. We find another entrance with more lifts but none which will take us to the other 30 floors.
We walk away into the city, leaving our paratroopers lost in a building that might not really exist. I wonder if the woman in the restaurant will tell anyone about the pair that threw paratroopers off the 47th floor.
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