Toni Jordan narrated this story at the Stereo Stories concert at Write Around The Murray, Albury, September 2019.
Amalfi Coast of Italy. 2002.
When Robbie finally agreed to marry me, I was determined to do it right.
I’d proposed a couple of times before he finally said yes. OK, I proposed seven times before he said yes. And, OK, it wasn’t so much an actual “yes”, and more of an “Alright, alright!”. Whatever. We were getting married, that’s what mattered.
We decided to elope: him, because his parents didn’t exactly approve of me, as they were right-wing church-going traditionalists and I was a left-wing atheist feminist. And also, I had an extensive dating history that made them think I was slightly unstable—OK, reasonable—and that I was the kind of woman who would propose repeatedly to a man she hadn’t been dating for very long, which is a fair call, really. The reason I wanted to elope was this: I wanted the most romantic wedding ever, and also because I wanted to isolate him from all his friends, in case he did a runner.
So I planned it. Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. May 3rd, 2002.
The town hall in Positano is high on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Afterwards we would walk the winding, cobbled streets and take romantic photos. Maybe we would eat spaghetti, one long strand like the lady and the tramp, but if not, that’s OK. I’m not fussed.
Do you know how much trouble it is to marry in another country? Holy fuck. I had to get searches done in every state to prove we weren’t bigamists, and get them translated, and get the translations certified, and lodged with the embassy, etc. So. Much. Paperwork. But I did it. And I found the perfect dress: a hot pink, strapless, fluffy thing that I packed so carefully in a suit bag. Robbie bought his suit in Florence so it would be uncrushed. In Positano, on the morning of the wedding, we drank Prosecco and waited for a chauffeur in a Mercedes to drive us to the Town Hall, where we would meet the photographer and the translator, and the deputy mayor would marry us.
We held hands in the back seat of the Mercedes up those famous winding streets, me, lost in a dewy-eyed romantic fervour; Robbie, OK yes, a little pale, and yes, I might have made sure the child-locks on the doors were on, sure. When we arrived, I gathered my skirts, and we walked to the Town Hall. Which was locked. The place was deserted.
This was an underwhelming development. The lovely chauffeur called the number on the wedding voucher and had a long gesticulating phone conversation in rapid-fire Italian. He hung up, turned to us and said, ‘Documents, she no arrive.’
Documents she no arrive? What the fuck does that mean, documents she no arrive? I filed those fucking documents exactly on time! But, you know what? It’s OK. It’s alright. We’ll go back to the hotel, and we’ll get changed, and we’ll make a few calls and we’ll find those fucking non-arriving documents. We’ll get married tomorrow. We have five more days in Positano. It will work out.
Audience, it did not work out. Twice a day, we rang the emergency lost-documents line, and the lady at the desk at the hostel rang it, and we rang the embassy in Rome, and we moped around our hotel room. Documents, she did not arrive.
After five days, Robbie turned to me. ‘Yes, this is a disappointment,’ he said. ‘But we’re in Italy. Italy! Let’s just go on with our holiday and get married when we get home to Melbourne.’
He was right. It was time to move on. We checked out, went for a last lunch and walk on the beach, then went back to the hotel in the late afternoon to get the bags.
We’re standing there, at the counter, when the phone rings. The desk lady answers it. She turns to us. You guessed it. The documents, she is arrived.
Now? Fucking now, she is arrived? My puffy dress is wedged into my backpack, wrapped around six bottles of limoncello and a dozen keyrings embossed with Michaelangelo’s David’s genitals. Robbie’s suit is rolled into a ball. Other people are in our room. The hostel’s teeny toilet barely has a mirror. The chauffeur and the photographer and the Prosecco are long gone. Our bus leaves in 20 minutes.
Robbie turned to me. “We don’t have to say yes,” he said.
I looked at him, this gorgeous man I’d fallen for at first sight, seven years ago. I knew right then and there that the dress didn’t matter, and the photographer didn’t matter, and the Mercedes and Prosecco didn’t matter. I knew I’d marry him in a t-shirt and jeans. So I did.
Toni Jordan narrated this story at Write Around The Murray, Albury, September 2019. Toni was backed – at various points of the story – by The Stereo Stories Band, featuring Julie Merritt on accordion.
Stereo Story #537