Reproduced by permission of the artist, Max Ferguson.
It was Lawrence’s idea. This triple bill. He’d pushed for “The Lost Highway” over “Mulholland Drive”, but was outvoted. Now, as it turns out he’ll miss the show. En route to another journey altogether.
Atop the ladder, as he stretches to fix the “V” into its allotted place, Lawrence’s mind is on higher things. Tomorrow will be his one-hundred-and-first skydive as a jump-master. Qualifying him, under the United States Parachute Association rules, to use a Go-Pro to video his clients. He’s made sure that his first customer of the day will be Miriam. The parachute will open to put the brake on the unbelievable exhilaration of the free-fall. At that very moment he will whisper into Miriam’s ear the words he now rehearses in his mind, And, as she says ‘yes’, which he’s sure she will, he’ll take the ring from his pocket and slip it onto the third finger of her left hand. The diamond will glitter in the rays of the rising sun. All filmed for posterity. A witness to all. A gentle descent back to earth and a marvellous future ahead.
‘I love this cinema job,’ he said two nights ago as he and Miriam were eating pizza after a Hitchcock double-bill (“The Birds” and “Vertigo”). ‘But it’s always been a means to an end. To get my licence. And to think of it ... now I’ll get to make my own films ... up there. Where it’s so quiet. So still. Four minutes between heaven and earth. Floating. Suspended. Film making and skydiving. My perfect combination!’
For Lawrence has been a risk-taker, a risk-seeker, all his life. Deep-sea diving. Freestyle climbing. Even a stint as a bounty hunter. He’s relished every challenge. The riskier, the more extreme the better.
He made her smile. His optimism. His sense of adventure and fun. But Miriam was terrified at the prospect. The idea of jumping into clear air. Fourteen thousand feet up in the sky. With him. In tandem. Just so she could be the first person he films?
‘But it’s crazy dangerous,’ she’d said when he first suggested the idea.
‘Couldn’t be safer,’ he replied.
He always had the stats at his fingertips.
‘In the last year only one person died world-wide from sky-diving. Do you know how many people died cycling bikes? Or pedestrians crossing roads?’
Eventually, she agreed. She’d meet him at six in the morning at the tiny airport by the river.
Tonight, sitting on her balcony she resolves not to back out. Even though he said she could. She decides to call him. To reassure him of her commitment. Maybe even say the words to him she’s scared to say. In case … of what? Her own aversion to risk?
His phone rings. He reaches for his pocket. The ladder totters. He spreads his arms. Skyward. An attempt at balance. And, with the “V” still in his hand, Lawrence shudders in the awful realisation that this shorter fall might prove to be the deadliest risk of all.