Swords of Ice

At all stations the penniless freeze

After leaving the mosque, the crowd of tattered, boisterous men buried in the snow what was left of their swords and slipped through the fog, onto the asphalt road. There, seeing a luminous object racing toward them as fast as a shooting star, they stood spellbound by its fiery arrows that punctured the fog. They didn’t know which way to run as a woman (in that moment of terror they thought her a celestial being) whizzed past them with sparks bursting from her heart.

Actually, it wasn’t an object but the phantom of fatal love, the fiery fruit, and in jet-like pursuit of this phantom raced Halilhan Sunteriler in his car.

Lashed by the car’s tailwind and terrified by the whoosh of sound, the group of tattered men split up and scattered in every direction. Feeling patches of ice all over them, they shivered and shook.

Nearing the woman with sparks flying from her heart, Halilhan Sunteriler cast a foggy look at the bow curving along her hips, pressed the clutch softly, and veered towards the roadside. He was surprised to see a black stream as wide as an arm flowing down from her brow. Bathing in the stream and flapping their wings were two greenish-gray birds. All at once he hit the brakes and stood to attention.

The woman let out a poisonous scream and vanished in the fog.

Halilhan, the ever-roving saint of love (as his friend Gogi called him), had, in less than a minute, smashed to bits the hopes and admiration he’d inspired in the hearts of the tattered men. With a horrifying crash he ran into the snow-laden lime tree on the bend and flipped back onto the asphalt.

On his early morning love-chase Halilhan had missed the curve, spun out, and, sucking up the tailwind, let the fog trick him out of the fiery fruit.

The tattered men huddled around Halilhan as his red Volvo, with her sorrowful headlights that had brightened up the winding paths of his life, lifted her bonnet, and, like a wounded bird, tried to catch her breath.

Halilhan Sunteriler was the very first of the area’s poor who’d had a chance to transform his sense of dispossession into the substance of a car. Once the way he felt caused him to stand out, the people in the neighborhood—that distant satellite ruled over by those fused with their possessions—fabricated a spiel of epic proportions, based on Halilhan’s car and his soft spot for women.

They heard one afternoon that he’d been waiting in ambush in his car beside a holy man’s tomb which was frequented by luckless women. They laughed and joked about him that night, likening him to a soft-hearted legal counselor who would take up the case of any poor soul who came by and tapped on his window.

Rumors fired up even more once they got wind of the accident he’d had as he worked himself up to speed chasing after romance in the morning fog.

Triggering these rumors were apprenticed mechanics with some professional experience who had at once come up with a history for the Volvo. Fatal tales were concocted about the car that Halilhan had initially introduced as “a mysterious dame, a grava, who had originally been sold to the scrap yard.”

As the festive mood of the passionate chatterers besieged his ever-hungry heart, Halilhan took an aloof and haughty air toward the gossip, saying that the rumor-mongers were “no better than a truck wheel.” They were chasing after nothing but words, only rolling along in them miserably because they were utterly incapable of imagining the joy of driving a car, or the thrill that coursed  through his body when he spied a woman from behind and overtook her with a mere touch on the pedal.

The Volvo was a gift to him from the city fringed by houses Halilhan loved secretly because they looked like wet matchboxes—the city he looked upon daily with a deep feeling of lack. He imagined the Volvo as a greeting from technology, the power that could control enormous energies with a tiny foot movement and guide vehicles that weighed tons with a mere touch on the wheel.

Proud and elated to have got hold of something precious and packed with memories of a world lying beyond his reach, Halilhan whispered to his friend Gogi: some energy mass had forced him to believe that the Volvo would without a doubt put them in touch with those who ran the country’s economy. Halilhan knew that Gogi wasn’t interested in dreams of a bright future, but to make the right connections to those people he still needed his friend’s brains, which always worked at full capacity.

His friend had given up such psychic-al and physics-al ambitions long ago and made a name for himself in another field: the close observation of life. Gogi (real name Dursun Ahmet) was a unique individual, a man who’d spent hours scrutinizing a fig, freshly split open and with seeds that remained clustered yet didn’t touch each other, and had resolved to discover the architectural mystery that underlay this phenomenon. He had grasped the fourth problem concerning the shadows that things cast, and was fully aware of matters pertaining to the fifth dimension. Eight or nine years ago he had penetrated the mystery that Halilhan now referred to as “energy mass.” For the last seven months he had been absorbed by his study of black holes in space.

It was in Gogi’s character always to use his knowledge in practical ways and never to fail to  apply what he’d learned to life. For instance, he’d felt disenchanted with his party when its chairman went to the States, and he’d resigned from it on the grounds that during his stay there the chairman might have become an android.

Claiming that from the day Halilhan had showed up in his Volvo his life had been “just like the generic of a film,” Gogi decided to dissociate himself from partnership in his friend’s imaginary project.

According to Gogi, the city’s outermost belt that held off the neighborhoods where they lived was like a live electric wire. A host of shrewd politicians stood watch there in invisible towers to keep people like Halilhan from getting too close to the men running the country’s economy. Moreover, the Volvo was in no shape to cut through that belt, as planned. Her rear-end was headed for the scrap yard, her nose was out of joint, and her body, filled with rusty holes on every side, had undergone a collapse. After the last accident, her axles had fallen into a dreadful state, her ball joints had nearly given up the ghost, and her suspension verged on tears. Doomed as well were her springs, valves, coils and fuses. Like some red monument to misfortune, only waiting for that last sunset when she’d shut her cat’s eyes for good and say, “I’m done for!”,  it was all she could do to drag her chassis between the houses sunk halfway in the earth. Poor Volvo!