Maria Majsa
Auckland, New Zealand, early 1970s
Western Springs College, Auckland 2012                                         

I’m in the back seat of our car with my brother. No-one has a safety-belt on, not even my parents who are in the front seat. The windows are down and my hair blows in my face. The radio is off because my father only listens to one kind of music. Jazz. Not the arty, sophisticated kind – the schmaltzy ‘lounge’ kind. Finger-snapping Rat Packers like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra; men who ran the world, hung with the mob and sang syrupy love songs which treated women like idiot children : Don’t you know little fool, you never can win

Other cars on the road are going fast, but my father overtakes them all, as though driving is a race and he is going to win. When the car corners, my brother and I slide around on the seat and bang into each other. My mother grips the dashboard. Her knuckles are white, but she says nothing. We all know if she asks him to slow down, he will speed up. Everyone stares at the road and the silence is like a headache.

I’m not wondering where we are going or what will happen when we get there, I’m thinking about how much I hate being in a car with my father. Even the thought of getting into a car with him makes me feel sick. I feel the same way when I hear jazz.

I never knew my father when he played drums in a jazz combo – that was another lifetime, another country. He refugeed Hungary when the Russians arrived with their tanks to crush the uprising in 1956.