Her bed shoots across the room like it was on rails, careening through folding doors and smashing an oak table into splinters before spilling me through a glass door and onto her balcony.  The apartment building shudders and shrieks with the sound of steel plates tearing apart until suddenly all is silent. 

Out of the silence looms her raspy, gasping cry from what used to be her kitchen.  Pinioned and helpless, she wails weakly – the gas stove has overturned; can I come help her? 

Outside in a chorus of the obvious, people on the streets two floors below call out to each other,

“Earthquake.”

“Yes, earthquake.”

Yes, earthquake.  And it is not over.  We are hit again, harder.

Now, nothing makes sense to me visually, and I am lost.

The building slips ever further off kilter with a dusty exhale that engulfs me.  Her cries behind me crescendo until they are extinguished by the ceiling hitting the floor.

Five minutes earlier, this classically coarse-haired, big-eyed, and unusually leggy Japanese woman whose name I will never know, made love to me in an unremarkable way and then slipped shyly away to heat up some instant noodles for a post-coital snack.

But now on this clear Saturday evening, for her and almost a million other Tokyoites, the world had ended.

Where was I and where can I begin?  The world has ended, not only for me, but for everyone unfortunate enough to be above neck-breaking height on the night that the earth shuddered and shook enough to topple the forest of concrete monuments that made up the city.

All of us were dazed, searching through rubble in a range of energies ranging from resigned curiosity to panicked bloodied-finger clawing.

Some of us knew what we were searching for, others were just going through the motions.

I don’t know how many time I thought I heard something that night; a whimper, a muffled cry.

I wish I could say that I made a difference, that I save someone, but the truth is that I was paralyzed and impotent before the fires and the giant ant-hills of debris.

I think a million people were crushed to death or burned or drowned that night.  It was as if the world ended.

 

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