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I woke up to the sound of a small baby crying across the aisle. My eyelids felt heavy as I snuggled closer to my father’s warm body, trying to drift back off to my peaceful dreams where I was on the solid ground.
“Are you asleep , Annie girl?” My father asked, his mustache brushing past my soft cheek. His breath reeked like alcohol. Except, I didn’t know what the smell was then.
“Your breath smells bad,” I grimaced and tried to lean on him again, but he shrugged me off his shoulders.
“It’s non-alcoholic, baby,” he slurred. This was the only time I ever saw my dad drunk in front of me and since I was so young I didn’t know what was happening.
All I knew was that my father didn’t sound normal. He was acting bizarre. He knew that I threw up every time I got on an airplane. Why wasn’t he comforting me? He unbuckled his seatbelt and asked to switch seats with a stranger. He switched seats because he was mad at me for saying his breath smelled bad. He took it as an insult to his personality and thought I’d been ganging up on him with my mom. He didn’t want to sit next to me anymore—I think that’s why. Or it could have been because he was trying to make me feel safer by not putting his daughters in danger being near someone who was drunk.
“It’s not regular wine, sweetheart,” he said a little too loudly from across the aisle. My little sister’s blonde head fell on mine as she began to snore lightly.
“Okay,” I nodded as the flight attendant came by to ask if I wanted an ice water. She was a thin African American woman with long, dark hair. “No thank you,” I told her as I began to close my eyes.
“I’ll take another one of these,” my father held up his cup.
“No problem sir.” She filled up a cup of the yellowish looking liquid and handed it to him.
I fell asleep for a few more minutes and then woke up to the sound of the pilot’s voice over the intercom announcing that we would be landing shortly. I glanced over at my father who was now yelling in a scratchy and rough voice at the flight attendant. I couldn’t really make out what they were saying because the sound of the engine, murmurings of others, and the intercom that wouldn’t shut up was getting in the way. I heard several warnings about “calling the police” which scared me.
I just wanted my dad to come over and hold my hand while the plane landed like he always did. I wanted him to tell me that everything would be okay. How come this time was so different? What was happening?
The plane finally landed and we had been stopped by the airport for about ten minutes. It was completely quiet now. The baby was asleep, the engine was silent and nobody was making any noise. This was when my father decided to shout “Delta f***ing sucks!” his voice sounded like it came out of a different body. It was gravely and deep. It wasn’t my Dad, but then why did it look like him?
“Let us out of this goddamn plane!” He kept shouting and rocking back in his seat. I wanted to be far away. I patted my sister’s blonde hair and closed my eyes tight, wishing I was asleep like she was. I wished I didn’t have to see what I was witnessing.
And still, I was on my father’s side. When I was little, I thought that my father was the best person there was and no matter what he did, I looked up to him. He could do no wrong for me and my sister. So I looked up to him. Why weren’t they letting us out? Why couldn’t the mean air-plane people who made me throw up time and time again and who made my father turn like this, just let us out of here?
The African American woman came back to his row. “The police will meet you at the bottom of the plane at your departure. Nobody talks to me that way, sir.”
“Sounds good to me b****,” he gulped the last of whatever was in his cup.
Finally, we were allowed to leave. The lights were on, and I could see my father’s face clearly. His blue eyes were blood-shot and looked like they were in a daze. His eyelids were puffy and tired. He was a mess. He looked really red and off. You could see it in his eyes that he wasn’t thinking, that he was somewhere else.
“Wake your sister up, will you? You were asleep that whole time ,right?” he asked me in his slow way of talking.
I wasn’t sure how to answer. I had never lied to my father before. Ever. Until now. “Yeah. I was asleep,” I told him. “Emily, time to wake up.” Emily opened her eyes slowly.
“Good,” He said while grabbing some luggage and heading out to the dark and ominous night. Emily and I followed close by.
A group of six police officers were right next to the plane. A woman with short, red hair came over to Emily and I and brought us away from the police men and my father.
She began chattering away, but I couldn’t really focus on what she was saying, and she could probably tell. All I could think about was what was going to happen to us. I just wanted to go home. I felt sick from the plane and now I had to deal with this police woman talking away. This wasn’t right and I knew it. I still felt bad for my dad though. He always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or so it seemed to me. He was always in trouble with someone or something. He always got on people’s cases wherever we were, like in the movie theater or in a store. And people would get mad at him all the time. This policewoman was obviously just trying to lead us away from the conversation my dad was having with the police. I mean, I just saw my dad drunk so why couldn’t I see the conversation?
“So, you were in New Jersey huh? You have family there?”
“Yeah,” I answered looking at my dad who was now smiling with the policemen. It didn’t surprise me. My dad had a knack for getting himself out of sticky situations.
“Where’s your mom anyway?” the woman cocked her head to the side.
This nosy woman was annoying me. It was late and she was obnoxious. “Uh…”
The woman seemed to regret her question immediately and began chatting about some other insignificant topic.
Daddy and the police men approached us casually. “Let’s get out of here girls.” He grabbed Emily’s hand and I followed behind him.
“Let’s not tell your Mom about this okay?” My Dad eyed me.
“Okay,” I said. I hated lying to my Mom, but I would do anything for my Dad.
“Promise?” he asked.
“Yeah. I promise.” I never went back on my word and my father knew that. Being stuck in the middle of two fighting parents is probably the worst place to be and I tried to avoid it when I could, but now I just wanted to get out of the airport.
“Because if you tell your mother, then she won’t let me see you ever again and you wouldn’t want that would you? She just doesn’t understand these things. She wasn’t here so she doesn’t know how rude that flight attendant was, okay?” He was still hard to understand and his voice kept cracking. “And we had a lot of fun in New Jersey ,didn’t we? We went to the beach, played with your cousins, saw some fireworks.”
“Yeah Daddy. I had a lot of fun.” A tear rolled down my cheek because I had lied to my father for the first time in my life that day and I didn’t like it. It didn’t matter that that he may have deserved my dishonesty, it was the beginning of change and I didn’t like it. I missed how things used to be when my Mom was on vacations with us and when my dad was holding me on the airplanes.
I wish I was really asleep on that plane but I wasn’t. Everything would have been different if I was.
“How did you get out of that whole scene back there anyway?” I asked my father looking up to him. Hanging on his every word.
“I’ll tell you something, Annie girl. If you can’t f*** with them then joke with them.”
“What does that mean Daddy?” I asked him hopefully.
“It means that there are a lot of jerks out there, baby. You know your daddy can’t stand it when people can’t take a laugh. Those Delta people need to just relax and remove the pole from their asses.”
I never really knew what to say when my Dad started talking like this. “Yeah. I hate Delta too. I think they make me sick on purpose.”
“They do, baby. Some people are out to get us. I don’t really understand it. Talk to somebody else who knows all about it. You should ask your Mom.”