Şeyda Kurt On holiday by car

Summer holidays
Summer holidays | © Unsplash / Rui Alves

When she was a child, Şeyda Kurt would often go on holiday with her parents and drive trough Europe with the car. In her essay she describes a memory of a past motorway trip that still influences her ideas to this day.

On the motorway I began to believe in miracles, amongst metal monsters weighing several tonnes chasing each other down at top speed. Each lapse in attention, each marginal error, could lead to a catastrophe. How were you meant to survive that? I still can’t fathom what crazy legality this system follows. But now I drive a Smart, my mother’s car. An automatic. It’s more go-kart than car. Top speed 130 km/h. There’s virtually no other car that’s more unsuitable for motorway driving. If it had been my mother’s decision to buy it, I would have already interpreted that as a denial – but it was a gift from her brother. My mother never drives on motorways. Never. She prefers to drive through the city centre, even if it’s rather a roundabout route. And every time I hurry onto the motorway slip road in great trepidation, this story unfolds before my eyes, a story she never tires of telling:

Once, on the way back from the summer holidays in Turkey, I was still a small child and it must have happened near Bulgaria, we crashed into a lorry. Our car turned into a scrunched-up ball of paper. It’s her memory, not mine, and yet my bones dislocate a little every time a lorry passes us on the motorway. My mother says: “You were four or five when that happened.” I ask: “Why don’t I remember it?” My mother says: “Maybe you weren’t even born, your sister was four.” She also says: “It was snowing and our car hit black ice and went into a skid.” I ask: “But wasn’t it the summer holidays?” My mother says: “No, it was 30th September, I’ll never forget the date, my teeth were chattering with fear and cold.”

In my memory on the other hand there’s no cold, just hot tarmac. The journeys through Europe that I remember alternated between hurrying and being stationary. There was nothing in between. Dry mouths. Sore tongues. My mother says: By the time we arrived in Turkey, your father didn’t have any hair left. I ripped it off his head from the back seat as a child in my riotous boredom. Today my nervousness on the motorway almost drives me to eat my own hair. Any traffic jam is better than speeding. Jams mean that the likelihood of turning into a scrunched-up paper ball is lower. I have time to study the heavens and believe in miracles. Was it winter? Was it summer? My mother says: “You weren’t even born then.” I reply: “My bones are telling me different.”