If We Lose We Die, But If We Win We WIN!!!

I’m a freshman or sophomore in high school. As per usual, we are spending the majority of the summer in Mexico. This year my brother’s best friends Chris and Mario joined us for ten days. During that stay, we took a trip to Acapulco with our family friends the Choussales.

The Choussal family consists of my uncle Rene, my aunt Sonia, and their three kids: Haina (the oldest girl), Rodolfo (peaceful middle child), and Sonia chica (the youngest sister). My parents were godparents to all three kids. Although we are not blood-related, they have been part of my family since I was born.

We have spent countless vacations together all over Mexico and the United States. There are endless stories of growing up together, surviving our parents, and becoming adults!

This particular story took place on our drive home to DF from the beach. During this time, the superhighway that connects Mexico City and Acapulco was not yet completed. The only way was a two-lane (at least for this part of the story) road that took 6 hours from the capital to the popular beach destination. It was a very treacherous highway that hugged the mountains and was congested with semi-trucks. If you got stuck behind any kind of slow truck or bus, you’re screwed in the winding mountain roads. There’s no safe place to pass on all those tight curves!

My father was insane behind the wheel. Perhaps you can remember the vintage cartoon Motor Mania of Goofy when he gets behind the wheel. My father, always claiming not to be afraid of death (thinking he would die before he was 40) was reckless behind the wheel. Reckless is an understatement: he was homicidal. He learned to drive by drag racing cars he had built on the streets of Mexico City. The power of an engine fueled his rage, impatience, and brutality. There were many moments where this was funny, there were many moments where his driving skills left you in awe, there were many moments of being mortified, and this moment was the one where we all saw our lives flash before our eyes.

So it’s Sunday and we are heading back to DF. I would say it was mid-morning and we were all eager to avoid the afternoon rush. My dad and uncle Rene are boasting about their best drive times! As per usual, this type of gloating begins to escalate and a poignant bet is made. Winner gets bragging rights. No prize could be more valuable to either man: their family honor on the line. Their wives eyes rolling deep into their head and all the children cringing from what they expected was to come!

The last bag thrown in, trunk slammed. Suburban roll call: Driver: Alejandro, co-pilot Susana (wife), second row Alejandro and Jorge (brothers), third row Chris and Mario (friends), fourth row the Holy Spirit!

Even getting out of Acapulco became an indie car rally! Running red lights, honking, yelling, laughing. So far, nothing out of character and my dad’s competitive spirit was infectious.

Now we are on the highway heading into the mountains. Speed is increasing and the so was the risk. Passing on a two-lane road is no easy thing in Mexico, especially in a suburban.

For a few minutes, my uncle Rene would pass us and after a few death-defying maneuvers we would be in the lead. The curve roads upped the ante. With fewer places to pass safely, we would get stuck for more time behind slower traffic.

I don’t remember who threw down first, my uncle or my dad, but someone began passing on blind curves. The gloves were off! My dad, looking like satanic goofy, looks into the rear-view mirror and says in his deep baritone voice.

If we lose…………………….we die.

But if we win,   WE WIN!!!!!!!!!

Mario and Chris began laughing out loud. My dad was full of these insane one-liners. Funny because it was in broken English. Funny because it was true. Funny because the way he delivered. Funny because we were all scared shitless!

So my dad throws down and begins passing semis and any other vehicle on blind curves. Pushing the engine to its limits. Yelling insults at the other motorists, and our hands clenched on any “oh-shit” handle we could find. I picture us looking like chickens thrown around inside a box.

It’s getting increasingly quiet in the car. We are holding our breath and praying that this insanity subsides. This goes on for about 30 minutes or so. My uncle Rene passes us. My father’s blood boils in jealousy. We begin to tell my dad to cool it, but this only strengthens his resolve.

This was not funny anymore. Everyone was white-knuckling and scared shitless. I remember praying for a clear road ahead. With my uncle pulling away, there was no limit to what could happen.

Oh, holy Jesus! We are trapped behind a double semi truck. No chance of passing for the next 15 kilometers. Thirty agonizing seconds go by before my dad can’t stand it anymore. He’s going to pass the truck on a blind curve. He preps, literally riding the truck’s bumper looking for the window when oncoming traffic has a gap. Before we know what is happening he cuts left, gunning the car beyond its capacity. For the first few seconds we are gaining ground on the truck and it looks like everything will be fine.

Out of the curve, flying head-on towards us at 60 miles per hour is an oversized semi truck. We are trapped. Too far into passing the truck in front and not enough distance to pass it before we have a head-on collision.

Everyone in the car screams. Time slows down. It gets very bright and then very dark in an instant that felt like a lifetime. I don’t remember any sound other than the feeling of a vacuum. Like all the air was instantly sucked out of everywhere. Like a drug-induced vision, the laws of physics are broken and on a two-lane mountain road without a shoulder, two semi trucks and one suburban squeezed by each other without a single scratch. We still don’t know how that happened. There was simply not enough room on the road to accommodate the vehicles. Perhaps it really was our fourth-row passenger that made that happen.

In complete disbelief, we are silent. In an instant, my father is back in the correct lane and white as a ghost. No one is speaking. The adrenaline deafening in our bodies our hearts racing and unwilling to slow down. The awkwardness of the silence continues and his driving has changed completely.

Seriously, no one spoke or moved for about 15 minutes. My mother swears that my father may have soiled himself a little. This was never confirmed.

We come to a gas station, pull over and essentially we roll out of the car. Wet from sweating and the cortisol, we begin to laugh. The kind of laughter that happens when you can’t believe you’re not dead! Then there was that thing when you walk around in circles in disbelief. Finally, there was anger and forgiveness.

My mother drove the rest of the way. We did not win and we did not die. We all made it home in one piece.

Your musical commentary for today is brought to you by Notorious BIG “Ready to Die ”

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