When it is rainy, time is always wet. I am not sure whether the rain makes it wet or I make it wet. Echo Chen (San Mao)
To me, summer is the shiniest sadness . Too many departures are crowded into the season. Familiar faces, voices, and promises are always disappearing. When I was young, I caught a butterfly in the yard, I thought I caught the whole summer. But I was wrong. You can never really catch time.
Later I found that those old stories could become perfect only if they become memories. But the memories change, too. When I think about old things they are different every time. The colors I add to my memories cannot be avoided. According to Whitehead, we are always adding to the past we remember, because in our very act of remembering, we add something new to our past. “The many become one and are increased by one.”
Another thing that I couldn’t avoid in those days, or in these days as well, are tears. In those days they may not have come from my eyes, but they came from my heart, no matter happy or sad memories. These tears were my wet time, which was too slippery to catch. Still, they never leave me alone.
Now, as I write this, I am in Arkansas, where I go to school. Summer will come soon. There is a tornado outside. We are gathered in the corridor on the first floor of my dormitory, Raney Hall, to avoid the destruction. I am sitting on the ground, listening to someone tell the story of a classic Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. My shoes are wet but I am too tired to care about them. "Don't worry about it, just stay here. This house is strong." Our resident advisor is trying to comfort us.
Staring at the cracks between the blocks on the ground, I think of some old houses where I have lived before, and the people who belong to that old time. One of them was a woman who took care of me. She wasn’t my biological grandmother. I will call her my fifth grandmother
When I lived in my grandma’s house , there was nothing. No running water, no television, even not a flat roof. I was around three at that time. During the daytime I liked sitting on the bluestone door steps, watching people walking through my sight. Sometimes, my fifth grandma joined me.
But she was different from me, she could see nothing. She just sat next me, keeping silent. I loved her more than others because she never said anything like "Look, there is a car." or "That beggar is fake." With her silence I had enough freedom to look at what I want and judge things by myself.
The clearest part of my memory is of the three bluestone door steps. Sitting on the top step, and putting my feet on the second one, I thought about the adults. Many people think three is too early to really think about anything. The adults felt this way; they never treated my words seriously. They didn’t take the words of my fifth grandma seriously either, because she was blind. When some relatives came to visit the house where we lived, we two could only eat in the kitchen, not at the round table in the living room with others.
I didn’t like those adults who gave me money, but never listened to my words. They liked playing mahjong very much. They would keep playing it more than five hours at a time. They treated me like air.
My parents went to my grandma's house once a week, but spent most of their time playing mahjong with other relatives. I tried lots of times to say, "Mom, could you please play with me?" Of course I got nothing except for an impatient sentence: "Here is five Yuan, go to buy some snacks." Though I knew nothing about god at that time, I thought that if there is a god, he should be patient .
Then, I started to take revenge. I grabbed one mahjong, ran fast to the yard, and dropped it into the well; I found the dirty toilet brush, ran out of the house, and brushed clean windows one by one; I got a basin and a spatula from kitchen, ran into the street, and beat them hard as drums and gongs. My plan worked. My mom stopped playing mahjong and ran following me in the street, shouting my name and trying to catch me back. Though I never got anything sweet after being caught home, it was still the most interesting game in my eyes.
It was at that time I knew that Donggou is a really small town. Because no more than three days later, everybody knew that I was not a good girl. I was famous.
I kept sitting on the top step, putting my feet on the second one. My fifth grandma was still sitting next to me. I could sense the difference from other people's eyes, since I had learned the fame of revenge. However, because I couldn't see the fifth grandma's eyes, to me, she was the same. One day, when we sat on the bluestone as usual, an old man passed by my grandma's house. He stopped in front of me, touched my head, and said," She must be a smart girl." Then, without any other words, he left.
He might say the same thing to every kids he met. But to me, this short sentence meant something and still means something. It made me keep thinking that I was someone special for a long time. At some level, I came to believe that he was the massager of god. God has come to the earth, come to me, touched me, and told me that I am not only naughty, but smart. Too many times, I had thought that god was above the world, too high to touch. When I tried to pray for health, happiness, or just good luck, I always looked up at the sky. However, god may be just an ordinary person. When you try so hard to find the god, he is just standing next you.
I was so happy after meeting that old man. I told my grandma, told my parents, and told other relatives. As I expected, though, they still didn't treat my words seriously. Because I was too small and the fifth grandma was blind, nobody really believed it. But god doesn’t need to be proven. Maybe different people have different beliefs. Jesus is the massenger; Muhammed is the massenger; to me, that old man is the massager. He sent me warmth and love.
When I grew up to the size that I could sit on the top bluestone step and put my feet on the third one, I left my grandma's house. I was so happy that I could see the big city, but I forgot to turn around and say something to my fifth grandma. One year later, when I came back, the fifth grandma was squatting on the ground, using the basin which I beat as drum before to wash her hair. She could not find the shampoo, using her hands fumble the ground. The water dropped from her hair, wet the ground, also wet my eyes.
Last year before I went to America, I went back to that small town. Nobody remembered that I was the naughty girl 15 years ago. But they all knew that I was a good student in a big city and would go out to see the world soon. They surrounded me, praising and smiling. I could even see the smile from their eyes. They were different, because I was no longer a bad girl.
Only the fifth grandma, she was the same. I could not see her eyes. I didn’t need to. The government paved the road in front of my grandma's house. The new road covered the bluestone steps. Only the top one could be seen now. The house had a television, a flat roof, and running water. The fifth grandma still sat there, listening to this small town.
Before I left, she held my hands tightly. She still said nothing, letting the tears come from her never opened eyes. I knew what she tried to say, "You are always my angel, no matter whether you are three years old or eighteen years old." Actually, she never saw my face. I will always be curious about what I looked like in her mind. Because she never saw the world, she didn't know what red looked like or what green looked like. The existence of the world in her mind had nothing to do with shape, color, beauty or ugly. Of course, in her mind, there is no faces. God was beyond faces, and so was I.
I have witnessed almost twenty summers. I have lived in seven different places. I have met thousands of different faces. I have loved lots of people. But even if I went to the same place, it is still not the place in my memory. Even if I met the same person, this person is not who I loved in my memory. It doesn't mean I don't love the person anymore. Just like the twenty summers will never come back, the people I have loved are never the same ones who lived in my memory. I am thinking of my friends in school. They may have gone to a good university; they may have found a good job; they may still remember me; they may still tell others that Vivian was the "Cruel Sister"; they may still leave me a message, asking me "How are you."
But they are not the same. Summer is the real "Cruel Sister," which comes suddenly, making life become memory. I tried so hard to pursue my dream. But sometimes, I find that amid the endless homework, and the successes in school, the short messages my friends and I send to each other are most beautiful.
At that time, you – my friend – were at my side. We laughed together; we complained about the bad education system together; we ate kebabs on the way back home together; we wrote "We will be together forever" in the class book. Now, you and all our friends have disappeared with the summer that year. That Vivian disappeared, too.
The writer who I like most is Echo Chen. Having experienced too much love, hatred, happiness and sadness, she said she treasured all the different kinds of lives. She loved the desert, and so did her husband, Hecy. Even the deserts have different colors. Hecy loved the white desert. He thought it is the like snow under the sun. My mom thinks I am following Echo's steps, leaving my hometown far away, facing the big world by myself. I don't know that whether I am following somebody's steps or not. But I know that there is some place under the remote sky is where I want to go.
I know that I should treasure this time and this place, but I still need to leave, to go to some other remote place. I will keep going, because life is on the road. I don't believe that life is trying to pursue a perfect circle. Life is the function that y=Asin (kx+wt). Y represents your feeling, emotion, love and understanding of the world. X represents where you are. T represents when it is. A, K, and W are the constants which you cannot change, like your appearance, your height, your birth family and the town where you first see the world.
It is not hard to see that life looks like waves, up and down, up and down. When we look back, both for time and for distance, we have walked a long way. Our boats are sailing in this kind of ocean. There is no wonder why the time is always wet.
Life is too slippery to catch, but it is open to experience. No matter shiny the spring or cold the snow, no matter how green the vegetables or white the tofu, they are all worth trying, sensing, listening, and remembering. I won't stop. Because it’s rainy outside, I know this summer is coming soon. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Note:
 Some contemporary authors in China like to use “the shiniest sadness” to describe some young people in my generation. Here, I’d like to use it for the special season, summer.
 Because my fifth grandma never married, she lived with my grandma all her life.
 Since I went to a boarding school, around 13 years old, my mom started to feel regret that she hadn’t spent enough time with me. Now, we talk to each other through skype almost every week.