Under the Influence

Alejandro Buenrostro, Guest Contributer

“Goodbye, drive safe,” my aunt said as we closed our car doors. My dad began to drive and the music from the New Years party slowly began to fade as my father’s Mexican music began to play. He started off driving so smoothly that anybody watching would have no idea he was drunk, but I was hoping that someone would realize he was drunk though – a lot could happen on the 45 minute drive home.

It was anywhere from 4 to 5 in the morning so the roads were completely empty, besides us and the wind scattering light flurries throughout the pitch black sky. On our way to the highway, the traffic lights seemed to have no purpose other than holding us back from getting home sooner. Every stop would make me worry about what was yet to come. When we reached the exit for the highway, my father went in on the wrong side. I read the “WRONG WAY” signs and my heart dropped. I was in shock and words could not escape my lungs to warn my father that he was driving straight into the wrong side of the freeway. It felt like I was falling and I had no way to protect myself. I was in a two-ton vehicle going 40 miles per hour in the direction where other two-ton vehicles were moving towards us at twice our speed, I knew the harsh impact of two vehicles would end horrendously. Suddenly the car jerked to the right waking my sister up and giving us both whiplash. The car drove over the grass barrier towards the right side of the highway tossing me and my sister side to side, up and down. I knew we had reached the road again once the rumbling stopped just as easily as it started.

The next 30 minutes felt like an eternity. Although it was a smooth ride, I could do nothing but sit there engulfed in fear. At the time, my height restricted me from  being able to see anything through the window except a dark sky. The air felt freezing cold even though the heater was on. I was exhausted but the current situation prevented me from falling asleep. I did not know what to think. What if I die while I’m sleeping? I did not want to die while I was 9 years old. How long would it take for the news to reach my mother and my other 2 sisters at home? Will my aunt feel responsible for letting my father drive? I was brought back to reality when the gentle curve of an exit pushed me towards the car door and I could see light posts towering above us through the windows in my car.

I watched as we passed each light, I could tell we were on the highway close to Revere now. I knew my father was reaching his limits when he cranked up the volume to wake himself up. The music was so loud I could not even hear my sister try to tell my dad to turn it down, yet my fear was still louder.

My train of focus was derailed when I saw lights moving on the ceiling in the car. They were white and blue. When my sister jumped to the front and shut off the music – I could finally hear the police siren. I sat on my legs so I could see outside the window. I looked behind me through the rear windshield and saw the police car right on our tail. My dad was not stopping. I looked forward to see my sister hitting my dad but he was not stopping. He kept driving and that is when the police started flashing its blinding light onto our car. My sister called our mother and was trying to tell her what was going on through her tears and gasps for air.

Finally, my dad began to slow down, but he kept on driving.

“Pa, stop! Stop! Stop!” my sister yelled over and over again, but her words having fewer meaning each time she repeated herself.  My dad finally stopped.

He opened his mouth for the first time the entire car ride and said, “Shut up.” My sister immediately sat straight in her seat and tried to fight her tears, as did I, because we both knew my father becomes infuriated when someone cries. The policeman opened his car door and menacingly walked towards my dad’s window. He knocked on the window and my father rolled the window down. When the window reached the lowest point it could, the officer spoke his first words.

“Please step out of the vehicle,”

“For what?” my father snapped back. I knew he made a mistake as soon as he spoke those words.

“Please step out of the vehicle sir or you will be forced out of the vehicle.” My father stayed silent and did not move at all, looking straight ahead. Speeding down the highway I could see my mother’s white Toyota quickly approaching us. She stopped her car on the highway and ran out directly towards our car.

“Ma’am, please don’t-” before the officer could even finish his sentence my mother swung open the car door and snatched my shoulder dragging me out. She yelled for my sister to get out and go to her car and without any hesitation my sister followed her orders. I looked back to my father as my mother was taking me away and below the sunrise I could see the officer pulling my father out of the car and forcefully pushing him over to put on handcuffs. I screamed for my father at the top of my lungs before my mother slammed the car door in my face, muffling my words to the outside world.

We drove towards the sunrise that blinded me. My tears blurred my vision so that it looked like I had my eyes open in a swimming pool. The rest of the drive home was complete silence. I do not remember going to sleep that day, all I remember is waking up and my father was not home. I did not know at the time but he was in jail for drunk driving with minors in the car. He got lucky because his sentence was a lot lighter than it could have been. I did not see my father for a while after that, I did not feel sorrow. I felt more rage than I felt dismal. I questioned why he would do that in the first place? Why was he so selfish that he put his pride before his own children’s lives? What if we did crash? It was as if I was a pot of water on a stove and every question I thought of turned the heat up a little more until I was beyond the point of boiling.

Until this day my relationship with my father has not fully recovered. Alcoholism was a very prominent issue with not only my father but also my mother. I understand that circumstances may not have been in their favor throughout their life, but I still have trouble looking them in the eyes because of the childhood they have robbed from me. This was only one occurrence of the countless my family and I had to endure, yet I am still thankful. I am thankful because I know things could have been a lot worse. I am thankful because these circumstances made me who I am today. I have food on my plate every day, my own bed to sleep in, and amazing friends and opportunities. I know I have not always been strong and have had very hard moments, but these moments are what made me even stronger. Now I know I can get through whatever I have to get through. Despite not having the best relationship with my parents, I know I have my sisters, cousins, and friends there for me when I need them. I am not embarrassed to admit that my family has a dreadful past because I am proud of who I have become and what I have drawn from the experience. This has led me to conclude,

“In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart,” – Anne Frank