I honor the responsibility of memory keeping...for me, for you. If the story seems embellished, it absolutely is, but the reality was just as ridiculous as any of the details I may fudge a bit.
A group of us went for dinner last night in Kichijoji. It's the ultimate girls night out destination around these parts. We hoofed it to Fussa Station just in time to miss our train. Our evening started a bit off. It's not simply being late for a reservation, it's having to figure out how to call and communicate that we're going to be late for a reservation. Always a frustrating adventure. Anyways, we managed. And then we American ladies took it upon ourselves to break all the rules of etiquette and adjust the volume level of our train car (Up. We adjusted the volume up in case you were wondering).
After a lovely Thai dinner and lovely conversation of avoiding the landmines of most of the groups upcoming PCS', we hopped back on the jam packed train home. Again with the silence. We fixed it. I see it more as allowing a large crowd of Japanese the chance to practice their English. A chance to mentally jot down phrases like, "What does a 'fart in church' mean," among others, so they can look them up later on google translate.
Upon arriving at our destination station, I decided to catch a ride back to base with the one person who drove. That's when it happened. My friend accidentally, ever so slightly, barely tapped a car behind us. It was so light, in fact, that we weren't even sure she hit it. It was only the confirming, "oooooh" from an airman walking through the parking lot that let us know for sure.
"I have to do the right thing," she said.**
So she called the translator on base. They called the Japanese police. Twenty minutes later, three rolled up on bikes(bicycles, mind you, not motorcycles. Not even sporty bicycles, Japanese bicycles). Three police officers responded. Blink, blink. One of the three spoke very, very little English. Not long after the original 3 rolled up, 2 more responded in a car.
Our faces when cops number 5 and 6 arrived:
The thing about Japanese police cars is that they never turn their flashing lights off. It scares the pants off gaijin. You only know you're in trouble if they start talking over their loud speaker. Wouldn't you know it...they started talking over their loud speaker. By this point, we'd been sitting there well over an hour and they were trying to hunt down the driver of the other car.
Jen tried asking if they could send something in the mail. They didn't understand. She tried asking if we were done having given them every shred of identifying material we had. They didn't understand. When they started blasting over the loud speaker, it was our turn not to understand. Apparently the other driver couldn't be reached via phone, so they went to the horn and requested his presence.
Finally, the dude showed up. At a quick glance, and given the hilarity of the situation, I may have said to Jen, "Oh, he's cute." As it turns out, he was not cute, he was just very well dressed. But before we realized it, Jen applied lipstick and I have a picture to prove it. We could not contain ourselves. We were laughing so freaking hard. Even the victim of the tragic crime looked at the spot on his car that we thought she may have bumped and he laughed.
It was such a funny memory and I am so glad I opted to ride home with Jennifer. She is one of the kindest, sweetest people who have made Yokota home for me. She is a reminder of what this military life is all about. She is one of those people who gets a check in the "PROS" column on the grand list of pros versus cons. A relationship made that would've otherwise been missed. A dear fried whose story and mine overlapped for a brief time in this crazy little place.
PCS season is gearing up to be a really, really rough one. There are so many people exiting stage left, for now. Their stories are taking them out of Japan and on to new duty stations. Their excitement is contagious until you realize it means driving past their empty house and watching strangers take their place. It's all well and good in the moment of laughing over Thai food until you remember they won't be at the next girl's night out or Starbucks run. I am so, so thankful God softened the blow of this season by leaving a good group behind. There's a ton leaving, but a good bit staying behind. We will do a "Who's Left" girl's night out come July.
We're tough, though, we military girls. We know to keep our whits about us and not let that first tear fall or the whole group will crumble. We know the drill. We've done it before and we'll do it again and again and again. And we know this part is worth it. It was worth investing in and serving with the people around us. It was worth putting ourselves out there and stepping out of our comfort zones in the name of connecting. It's worth saying good-bye to have had the privilege of the friendship at all.
**In hindsight, shoulda left a cantaloupe on his windshield and Thelma and Louised our way right outta that parking lot.