Twelve hours ago I was stuck in a small lift with ten others: my daughters (aged 12, 9 and 7), a boy magician (also 9), the magician’s mother, one journo, one producer, one artist and two other gorgeous women who were friends of our hosts.
At 11.45pm, we had all left the apartment to go down to river and watch the fireworks. I sipped Chandon from my red polka dot paper cup and followed the crowd. All the kids were bedecked in glow sticks. My middle one had an orange one around her head, the youngest had eight on her wrist. For the past two hours, they had been eating miniature bars of chocolate, drinking Coke and watching the magician make a tooth pick disappear from his right hand.
I had just finished boasting about two people I had met at our first party for the night. I mentioned the fact of the first party to every guest I met at the second one.
“We were at another party before this one and there was this couple who were visiting our friends Elizabeth and Cam. They were from LA. I expected the visitors to be really glamorous or debached or something but they looked really normal. The guy was a sound engineer. He had just finished working on the reprise season of Beverley Hills 90210. No, I didn’t know there had been one either. And then Cam said they’d met in Hawaii a long time ago on the set of Cops Who Surf. It was a pilot but that show didn’t get up. And then I met the guy’s wife. She was a petite blonde woman who wore a pink jumper and brown slacks. I asked if she worked in film too. She said no. I asked her what she did. She said ‘I am a professor of forensic nursing’. She said she worked with women who had been raped or beaten up and children who had been abused. I asked her what she valued most about her work and she said ‘the bravery of the patients. They are so strong’.”
We all piled into the lift. Someone pushed G. “Imagine if the lift breaks down,” the producer joked. “Don’t say that,” I said.
The lift started to go down and then there was a bang and the lift stopped. Ha, ha, ha. The button on 1 was lit orange. Someone jabbed it. Ha, Ha. Nothing. Someone else jabbed the G button. Still nothing. Ha! The lift was stuck. Then someone pushed the silver button that had a picture of an analogue red phone receiver beneath it. A loud growling pointless buzz filled the lift. Whooo! Whooo! Hey! Whoo-hoo! On the floor just above our heads, fellow revelers banged on the door.
“We’re stuck,” I shouted. “Someone call 000. We need to call 000. Call the fire brigade.” No one in the lift had reception. The magician started to cry and so did my youngest one. I patted her head and said things I did not believe. It’s okay love. No need to worry. Mummy’s here. Your sisters are here. Our friends are here.
Breathe, breathe, keep breathing. Someone pulled the door open a fraction with a hammer. Neighbours passed plastic plates through the gap. Fans! I got handed a greeting card, still in its packet. ‘Thinking Happy Thoughts of You’ it said. Twelve candles flickered beneath the message. I flapped it in front of my face. “I’m going to faint,” I said. “I had thought of retraining as an emergency nurse,” I said. “As you can see, I am very good in emergencies,” I said.
I slumped down against the wall. My youngest patted me. “It’s okay mummy. You won’t faint mummy.” My middle kid blew her green party whistle.
Friends pushed wet towels through the gap and jelly snakes and cups of water. The magician’s brother gave him his deck of cards. The fire fighters came. One of them, a young woman, said it was too dangerous to force the doors and we had to wait for the engineer. At last he arrived. We had been stuck for nearly an hour and a half in the steaming steel lift. The engineer shut the doors. More time passed. Then bang, bang, bang, the lift started to judder downwards. Ride ‘em cowboy!
Air, legs, faces, hands, light! The doors were open. People reached in to help us up. Kids first. Let the kids get out first. The cool, expansive night wrapped us up.
It was 2.15am. We got the last Werribee train from Footscray. Totally packed. A baby sprawled on her mother’s lap, a pink silk flower glowed against her dark hair. She still held onto her small orange balloon, twisted and tweaked to make a poodle. The kids clung to the yellow bars.
Every time people got off, the two young guys opposite yelled out Happy New Year. At Seddon, a departing passenger yanked down her floral mini tube skirt and gave them both a super dirty look. “Happy fuckin New Year to you too!”
The older of the two guys said his mum had been stuck in a lift once. “She didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all. We lived in a tower and she got stuck between level 8 and level 9. She was stuck for two hours. She was pregnant too. And she was on her own. It is better if there are two people and you can talk. You were alright. You were all together. And then my mum she got unconscious and they took her to the hospital.”
“And what did you get?” Mike said.
“I got a baby brother. He’s six now.”
Lifted. Alive. Nearly home. Happy New Year: the only way from here is up.