Never having pumped my own gas in Japan before, that could have easily have been the most eventful part of my day on any other day, but as it turned out, it’s barely worth mentioning, and I don’t even remember enough about the pump colors and button options to keep from repeating the same mistakes next time.
I had the wherewithal to at least put the cap back on and pull away from the pump to free up the space before calling my husband again to have the same desperate conversation we’d already had twice.
He tried to spin pretty words of encouragement. I could hear in his voice that he was scared. I felt the tears seeping into the corners of my eyes, but something snapped in me at that moment. There is something oddly freeing about letting go of your last hope. I may have legitimately lost my mind there in that Eneos gas station parking lot. I’d been driving nearly seven hours, fueled by Twizzlers, carbonated lemon water, and two hours of sleep on a tray table. I saw myself being the definition of insanity personified: repeating the same action, hoping for a different outcome.
I cut my husband off, “I love you. I know that you’re trying to help. But, I don’t have time for this right now. I’m losing daylight sitting here, and I can’t stay here. I have to fix this somehow. I have to go now.”
He hadn’t seen the lobbies full of displaced travelers. He hadn’t seen, both from the air and on the ground the raging, orange rivers. He couldn’t hear the emergency sirens in his hotel room in Guam. He didn’t have the backdrop of mountains riddled with landslides taunting him at every curve.
I had this unfortunate perspective. I may never be able to unsee it. I had two babies in the backseat who — if I had my way — would have never seen a house slide into a river, swallowed forever and broken into bits like it was made of toothpicks, with no regard for whether or not it was occupied at the time.
Oh, my God, what if someone else was in there with her own babies?
If I had my way, they would’ve never had to ask me how that silver car, vertically lodged in the ditch was going to get out and if the people were OK. They would’ve never had to ask me how whole pieces of the road — pieces as big as their beds at home — could just fall off.
I don’t know really if my husband knew I was right to get off the phone, if he was too scared to argue with me, or if he just ran out of words. I told him that I was going to keep trying to get to the airport. I would stop frequently to recalculate directions, and I would update him then with a pin so he could track my location.
After I hung up, I was alone. I began to think as if our lives depended on me finding a way because I truly believe that they did. I assessed the few facts I had.
- There was nothing for us in Higashihiroshima or Kure — no trains, no lodging, no food.
- The water was still rising.
- Sleeping in our car was not an option. I’d already been awake nearly 48 hours, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep in that car amid the very real possibility that we could be swallowed up by flood waters in the dark of night.
- I could no longer get to the airport — even though that’s the plan I gave my husband, and I was tired of trying.
- Google Maps was not accurate in displaying the lack of road closures.
- There was one — and only one — road I hadn’t tried.
It was time to try that road. But, I needed help. I had no navigator by my side to override the directions telling me to turn right or left onto a blocked street, so I had to outsmart the GPS. I used my finger to scroll along a winding mountain road far to the northwest of Kure until I saw a point I could navigate to.
I found it — a dentist office.
Photo Credits: Associated Press | Kristi Stolzenberg | Unsplash