hypothesis (Yisheng Gong)

She posed a hypothesis to me: if we could measure the fine structure of a rainstorm.

I said that even if we measured it, it would be useless. We lived in a city full of sensors, there are permissions for all kinds of data, and a bureaucratic organization with an umbrella-like structure controls those rights, and we can’t get them.

She was obsessed with the hypothesis, to the point of being wasted, and I took her for an afternoon stroll through the park, past two ball fields with brownish-red pine needles floating in eye-clear standing water in the drainage ditches on either side of them. I could see how much she wanted my answer, even if it was pure nonsense and she got nothing from it, a lighthouse obsession, so new even the sculpture smelled in this post-storm city.

Okay, I said, then let’s start at the beginning. Intuitively, the rain occupies a vast space. The shape of its lower boundary is the roof of the buildings in our city, a precise and constantly shifting geometric curve. With its constant droplets of water, Rain acts like a myriad of spaced-out barriers with a sponge-like effect, allowing sound waves to attenuate very quickly. But at the same time, the rain has powerful energy, which constantly strikes the physical surface that catches it so that the rain echoes like white noise from something distant. Most light is also refracted away by the drops of water in the shower and replaced by a dull white that forces its way into our vision like a viral program. Also, the wind takes the shape of the rain, and they weave in and out of it, forming falling waves and caves that give the shower a sense of rhythm. Specifically, each droplet is shaped like it’s in a weightless space, and you see their smooth armpits and want to tickle them with your fingers. And they all have a very reluctant birth; the air can no longer hold so much water, they used to be promised never again as an entity, and now they have to cling to bacteria or dust. This water comes from the Pacific or the Indian Ocean, and the warm air carries it up so violently that a storm can form in a day. The happy fisherman knows its temper, the inhabitant of the patio knows its music, the foggy policeman knows its touch, but if we stop in the middle of the storm, we will lose everything, as if we were in a universe of thermal silence.

“That’s all there is?” she had a look of intent. Obviously, my answer did not make her satisfied. When I got home, I had to clean up the mess of this illegal invasion of the sensor database. In organizing the data, I realized my indiscipline: it was a random, chaotic structure, and how could I describe something indescribable. So I wrote a scientific report on my study of rainstorms, concluding that “I love you.” I dream of you and me, and the report’s conclusion, together with the earth revolving around the sun and on its axis in a rainstorm.

Sept 2020


Favorite Drink: Schwarzbier

Yisheng Gong is an engineer at day and story writer at night. He writes both in Chinese and English. He is the author of an unfinished collection of short stories and poetry, and publishes writing drafts on his website yishenggong.com every month. Check out his twitter here, (mostly in Chinese if you can read).


image: Charlotte VanWerven