Today I am heading up the highway (past Lake George/Weerreewa,) through the Southern Highlands, to Sydney, and along Parramatta Rd. It is such a familiar place, but also astonishing in its life and noise. I live in a city where we joke about our traffic peak minute that arrives somewhere around 8.30am. It is all about contrast and memories for me.
I lived in Glebe when I was a student. Went to Sydney Uni. Lived in Camperdown and Ashfield a little later. I have set a novel in Summer Hill. Hung round in Leichardt and Annandale. All these inner city suburbs cluster around Parramatta Road. I visit Sydney often, my family and many dear friends are there. I am going to a book launch today, The End of the Line Poems by Rae Desmond Jones, published by Rochford Press (formerly Rochford St Press).
I recall a time in 2016 when I was visiting my Mum in hospital in Sydney. It was around my birthday. My husband was taking a short course in lighting at AFTRS. I was aware of a callout for a project by Spineless Wonders for their Little Fictions series. We were staying in the Marco Polo Hotel, one of the cheapest hotels we could find. Aeroplanes rumbled overhead, the lights of cars streamed by as we leaned over the edge of the roof one night. A fellow guest sang loudly all into the early morning on our last night there. After many hours and at about 4am the management kindly asked him to sit outside. He was trying to stay awake so he wouldn’t miss an early plane apparently.
During that time I became aware of the wedding dress shops in Leichardt on Parramatta Road, the cluster of hope and glamour, in the grind and bump of the busy streetscape. I glimpsed them from the bus. Lingered as I walked past. Took photos. I wrote a piece for Little Fictions that was later performed at the Knox St Bar in Chippendale by Joel Douglas.
Here it is.
The Wedding Dress
When the shop door opens I hear the sea. The rumble of the waves rises to the sky. The sea must be close by. I dream of it. I wake to the sound of its swell, rising with the day. The beams of a lighthouse sweep across the floor at night.
The brides-to-be, the mothers-of-the bride, the bridesmaids, glide in with smiles and acumen, with flourishes and secrets. They know their measurements. I swim in their expectation, hope for their attention, their touch, to lead me to my day.
I have heard whispers of a harbour, a bridge of fireworks, of gliding ferries and an Opera House with white sails. Is it a ship? Will I sail on it? Will I clasp my bride, enfold her as we waltz, dance in the spray? I glimpse the blue of the sky through the shop window. I am white like the summer clouds, organza edged.
I wait for my day like a butterfly. My tulle is a wing. It flutters as she walks past, brushing my skirt, and she pauses before me. The groom waits outside, smoking. Ash falls on the pavement, sparks scatter.
She touches my bodice. Lifts me to the mirror and presses me to her heart, smooths me down, fluffs me out. She tries me on. Steps out of her shoes, unzips. I slip and rustle and slide and hold her tight. She adjusts herself into me. We look at ourselves in the mirror. Unsure.
The bridesmaid runs to the door. Shoo! Shoo! The groom strides off. Crosses the road. The bride-to-be wants to see us in the sun. Our wedding will be outdoors. Out west. By a river.
We stumble out the door. The waves crash around us. Parramatta Road surges, rolls. I am cream as pearl, as bright as molten gold. Whipped in the wind. I will fly. A truck blares its horn.
Humans of Parramatta Road is now on a podcast. You can hear Joel’s resonant performance and all the other wonderful actors and stories. A casting coup, a male voice for a female subject for the The Wedding dress, I believe (thank you Bronwyn). Rozanna Lilley shared her incredible Parramatta Road project with me recently, check it out! https://flic.kr/s/aHskroy4CS
What will I find near Parramatta Road this time? I will tell you soon.
(Thanks to Dylan Jones for the beautiful photos of the event.)