It rained this morning. So I blamed the sky for foiling my plan to go swimming.
It was the kind that looked like translucent threads, fallen haphazardly at an angle.
This reminded me of going swimming in the summer of Beijing when it often rained as we bobbed up and down in the pond.
The rain would land warmly on our cheeks, blur our visions by draping over our lashes, and mess up our strokes as we reached out trying to capture each sparkling drops.
Lou and I would always be the first to run out the house as it gets too hot to do anything else. We'd hardly have anything with us, save for swim wears and sandals. Even those we'd kick off as soon as we caught sight of the pond, with its murky waters and concrete edges. Our shoes would be flying and so would we. Into the water we'd dive, among the thousand other kids already bobbing in the water.
It's a pot too full of dumplings, my mom would always say. But it never stopped us.
The Wang brothers and Lou's best friends Dash would always follow us, along with Dash's younger sister Four. She was like, six by then, but she was called four for some reason and it somehow fit. She always looked like a child, even later on when she went to junior high, then high school. She had the face of an angel.
Once in the water, Lou would carry her on the shoulder, and swim like a hippo carrying his prize. I tried to get Dash to carry me, but he'd be reluctant at times. I wasn't heavy but Dash was shy. So we each swam on our own. Lou would challenge him occasionally into a fight, which would mean Four and I attack each other sitting on our respective "rides", while they peddle frantically in the water. Lou thought this was funny, and he would laugh out loud whenever he couldn't take it any more, tossing Four into the water as he did so. As Dash dove for Four, I would land in the water, fist punching air or pockets of rain as I went down.
The rain usually drove the other kids away, so we could have the pond all to ourselves. We would finally be able to swim for real, like holding our breathes for more than four or five strokes. I couldn't swim that much anyway, but I loved watching Dash and Lou race each other, their arms tan and hair shiny black against the dimple gray surface of the water. Whenever the Wang brothers were around, Dash and Lou would team up to either race them or fight them into the water. They'd usually win, leaving the brothers ready to "raise the white flag", as they'd say.