When the rain starts pouring down, what do you feel?
Joanna observes the neighbour kids running around in the park through her window, laughing with each other while soaked in rain like water is their best amusement. They’re not trying to look for shelter, they’re not scared of getting wet nor getting sick. They live in a moment, a beautiful moment we call childhood.
She couldn’t remember the last time she welcomed rain with a smile. When Joanna was a kid, she used to dance under the rain along with her friends. That was their place of comfort, having the simple pleasure of playing with falling drops of water from the sky. Yet, look at the grown-up Joanna. When the dark clouds roll in and the rain starts to pour, she just grinds her teeth hoping the gloomy day would just be over. She thinks, it only causes floods and traffic jams anyway.
She spent her younger days studying, pursuing high grades that could make her parents proud. She never had time to breathe. Studying and working were all she’d been doing for the last ten years. But then, on one Sunday morning, it all changed. That day was the day that she will remember forever.
That morning, she woke up to a sound of a downpour. She couldn’t remember the last time she had fun, enjoying the happiness that came from rain. She’s a 22-year-old girl, with a job that was too consuming her time and her life, and all she wanted to do that day was to enjoy back her childhood days that she had long missed.
So she ran out of her house, splashed around those puddles on the street with her sandals, not even worrying that it’s her brand new white sandals. She ran around the little park in front of her house with the neighbour kids that she used to just watch from her window. She laughed with them until their stomachs hurt, looked up to the sky with their hands wide open, spinned around and danced following the beat of the raindrops.
She got carried away, in a moment that she had left behind so many years ago.
“Hey, Joanna! Come and catch me!” Said a little girl who ran passed her that made Joanna a little confused. How does she know my name? She thought to herself.
“Hey, how do you know my name?” She sped up to chase that little girl.
“What do you mean, Jo? Have you lost your mind?” The little girl giggled and turned around, showing a face that she recognized all too well. Yet, she never felt so shocked.
“Ka...Kara?” Joanna could not believe what she’s seeing. Kara, her childhood friend that she had not been seeing for years.
“Why do you look so confused, Jo?” Asked another little girl running from behind her.
“Winnie...?” Joanna couldn’t be more confused. “What is happening?!”
Her head felt spinning and light. Why were both of her childhood friends there? And most importantly, why did they still look like little kids? For a moment, she thought she was dreaming.
Joanna ran to a puddle of water on the side of the road and looked at herself. She’s a little kid too! And when she looked around, everything seemed quite different. The right side of her house supposed to be a row of white houses, not a wide field with freshly cut grass. The front of her house right across the street supposed to be another cemented road, not a small river. And her house, there’s something different about her house. The swing was not supposed to be there anymore, because that big tree on the front yard had been cut down long time ago. But it’s there.
Her observation quickly got distracted when she saw two people standing on her front door. They’re calling her name, looking worried.
“Joanna! Joanna, come home, sweetheart. Don’t play in the rain too long, you’ll get sick.”
There they were, her mom and dad, waiting for Joanna to come inside the house with a sheet of dry towel and the warmest smiles.
She ran as fast as she could, dying to hold them tight. Her heart was beating so fast, she felt like she could cry right that second. But everything suddenly got blurry and disappeared fast. Her childhood friends, her mom and dad, the giant tree with her red and white swing, all vanished when she got to the front door of her house. She sat there all alone, wondering what just happened. That tree had not been there for the last 15 years. There’s no way she met her friends that were still little, and there’s no way she saw her parents who had been gone since she was 17. There’s just no way.
She tried running back to the park, looking for Kara and Winnie that maybe would reappear. But to no luck. Everything she just saw was gone, replaced by the usual things she sees in her daily life. So she went back into her house, lay in bed while looking at her room’s ceiling that was starting to turn brown because of the leakage from the rain. If Dad’s still here, he would fix it. She thought.
Her dad was a musician, a piano player who could play the most beautiful tunes she’d ever heard.
“Sing along with the tunes, Jo.” He said every time Joanna sat beside him on the piano.
“Yes, Jo. I want to hear that sweet voice.” Her mom said while painting the canvas on the living room. She was quite a famous painter.
Joanna reminisced while looking at the flowers painted by her mom on her bedroom walls. She remembered she used to watch her mom paint while she hummed her favourite songs.
As for Kara and Winnie, they were Joanna’s best friends since she was 6 years old. They used to play on the same park when they were kids, living near to each other. But they got separated by distance when they grew older. Kara moved out of the city with her family when her dad got assigned at Bandung, and Winnie who always had great achievements finally received that scholarship at Sydney. Joanna was left here at Jakarta all by herself.
It’s been six days since the event happened. Joanna still tries to convince herself that that was not a dream. But was it reality? She tries countlessly repeating what she did that day, including wearing her white sandals and running around with the kids at the park. But they’re still not turning into her best friends.
She’s starting to lose her mind that she immediately calls Kara and Winnie, making sure they’re here in real life and at their real age. They’re surprised to get a call from Joanna, since they had not been hearing from her because she’s been too busy and closing herself from her surroundings when her parents were gone. Their conversations begin awkwardly, yet end with warm laughs and a promise, that someday they will get together again just like they used to in Jakarta.
And for weeks, Joanna gets on with her life and daily work as an accountant. She still thinks about what happened, as she glazes through her office window while struggling to finish her work on time. It’s raining again, how nice. She says to herself cynically, forgetting her joyous experience that she just had few weeks ago.
“Wait, it’s raining again. That’s it!” She spontaneously shouts it to her co-workers, expecting they would immediately understand what she means – and end up just looking confused as hell.
She runs down with her high heels to the lobby, searching for her little friends who are probably getting ready to play with her. She is so excited even though it’s dark and cold outside. She doesn’t care. She takes off her heels and walks outside, slowly exposing herself to the rain. When she catches the raindrops with her hands, she starts to hear the sound of her friends’ laughter. When she steps further into the rain, she sees little Kara and Winnie waiting to dance with her. A dark night turns into day in a matter of seconds. And even though the sun is hiding behind the clouds, she could feel the light it brought. Her office parking space instantly changes to her childhood playground, and her office changes to her house that looks like 15 years ago.
They run around without any burden on their backs. Even when Kara’s striped shirt that she loves so much got a little torn by the tree branch and scratches her skin that creates a little wound, she would still laugh like it’s the best time of her life.
“Don’t worry, Kara. I’ll get some bandage for you at my house.” Says Joanna while running to her house immediately. She can sense that the rain would soon subside, and she’s right. As soon as the rain stops, she’s back at the front of her office, standing alone, wet and soaked.
“Jo.” She hears someone familiar calling her name from a car. “Joanna.”
A brown-haired girl with black and white striped dress opens her car’s door and walks towards Joanna.
“Kara?” Joanna looks at her friend, all grown up and looking lovely.
“How are you, sweety? Long time no see!” She says while giving Joanna a big hug.
“It’s been years, Kara.” Joanna hugs her back with tears in her eyes. “I miss you so much.”
The hug lasts no less than 10 minutes while they’re faces are drenched in tears. She could not remember the last time she hugged someone she loves deeply. She’s been guarding herself from people, and today, she finally feels like she can let her burdens go and open up.
They talk about their lives all night long. Kara has become a successful doctor and lives with her husband at Bandung. Apparently, she comes to Jakarta just to meet Joanna because Joanna finally returns her unanswered calls. She’s been trying to reach out to her for the last three years. And during their deep night conversations, Joanna desperately wants to tell Kara about her “magical” rain experience. She’ll think I’m crazy! She thinks. But when will I have the chance to have this kind of conversation with her, since we’re a hundred miles away on a daily basis?
“Kara, do you think that we can go back in time?”
“What do you mean? Like, remembering the past?”
“No, no. Do you remember we used to play in the rain when we were kids with Winnie? We ran around and laughed with each other?”
“Yeah, that! We could go back to our childhood. Being an actual kid. Do you... believe that it can happen?”
“Jo, I don’t think that’s possible. We’re grown up now, how can we go back to being little?”
“Please believe me, Kar. I’ll show you, just wait until it rains again.”
She may not have convinced Kara about going back to being a kid, but she’s successfully convinced Kara to stay at her house for the whole weekend. And for the whole weekend, Joanna hopes and hopes that the rain will fall. But it didn’t.
On the earliest as early morning can be, Kara is already preparing to go back to Bandung to treat her patients. When Joanna looks at the gloomy sky outside, she can see that the rain will fall soon. But she knows that Kara has to go. She’s a very busy girl too. So Joanna hugs her best friend good bye and lets her goes her way.
Merely half an hour after Kara left, the rain starts pouring down. Heavily.
“Kara! Can you turn around and head back to my house? It’s raining here!” Joanna says on the phone.
“Yeah, it’s raining here too, Jo.”
“Can you stop? And head outside?”
“What for? Wait...” For a few seconds, Joanna can only hear some movement from Kara’s end. “I’m getting my umbrella.”
“No, no! No need for an umbrella!” Joanna answers quickly.
“Don’t be crazy, Jo! I’ll get wet. I can’t afford to get sick, what about my patients?”
“Kara, just try to relax for a minute. Remember our childhood. We were so happy, right? Imagine if you can go back to that exact moment and relive those exciting days. The times when we don’t have anything to worry about. All you have to do is head outside, and let the rain do its magic.”
Once again, Joanna tries to convince Kara. And so she steps outside of her car, and in no time, she immediately soaked in rain water. “Now what? My phone is not waterproof, you know?”
“Do you see any kids running around? Or the park we used to play in? Or anything that was in our childhood time?”
“I... I don’t see anything, Jo. All I see is roads... and cars... and rain...” She says desperately.
“Just... wait there, I’m coming!”
Joanna rushes to where Kara is with her car. When she gets there, she sees Kara still standing outside of her car looking out at the road. Somehow, maybe some part of her still hopes that she can step out of her routines and relive her childhood days. To see her childhood house, and her old beloved dog. But there’s something still holding her back. It’s like she is trapped in her work.
Joanna steps out of her car and walks to Kara with an umbrella prepared in her hand. She can feel the rain drops on her head and start to hear her best friends’ laughs.
“Don’t you see it, Kar? That’s the park we used to run around in, that’s my house with the giant swing we used to play with, that’s your house with that annoying bright yellow fence? And that’s little Winnie running around?” Joanna says while pointing to numerous directions, holding the umbrella back and forth so she’s not fully in her childhood world.
But Kara just shakes her head. Joanna can see the disappointment on Kara’s face because she can’t see what she sees.
On January, it’s Winnie’s turn to go back to Jakarta for a few days. Joanna invites her to come to her house to reconnect and reminisce about their childhood, and practice what she has attempted to do with Kara. It didn’t work out with Kara, but with Winnie, it just might.
“Winnie, do you want to go back and just be a kid again? Just for a few hours.” Joanna asks as they finish their lunch at her home.
“Yeah, I really do, Jo! Even for a few minutes.” She says excitedly while dragging her chair closer to Joanna with a glow on her eyes. “I remember we used to laugh for hours for no reason! Even a cherry tree can entertain us, right? But look at us now. Frowny, dwelling on our workloads. I remember our parents used to wait at our front door while we play outside in the rain, with a towel! Haha.” And then she turns silent for a moment. “I miss my dad so much, Jo.”
“Yeah, I miss my parents too, Winnie.”
While they’re busy having nostalgic conversation, rain is falling outside. With no time to waste, Joanna pulls Winnie out of the house immediately. Winnie doesn’t even ask a question when they’re both in the middle of the rain, soaking wet. Joanna closes her eyes, looks up to the sky, spreads her hands wide open while dancing in the rain. Winnie does the same.
When Joanna opens her eyes, Winnie is nowhere to be found.
“Win? Winnie?” She calls her best friend and looks around.
“Joanna!” Winnie says from the distance.
“Where are you?”
And there she is. The little girl who’s been hiding behind a tree, with her neon dress.
“Is this real, Jo?” Asks Winnie while watching her surroundings closely.
“I guess so. We’re both here, right? We get to go back to this moment. One of the best moments of our lives!”
For the next hour, they hold hands and dance in the middle of the rain, running around like little kids who haven’t played in a long time. Winnie is jumping around, trying to pick the little sweet cherries from a tree.
“Wow! These trees are no longer here, right? This... is... the... most delicious... fruit... I’ve... ever... eaten! Right, Jo?” She says while still jumping to pick some of their favorit childhood fruit. It’s rare to find them these days.
“Yeah. Too... bad... they... cut... them... down!” Says Joanna, trying to help Winnie get some more.
After their hands are full, Joanna and Winnie sit in the middle of the park while savoring those juicy cherries. “What about Kara? Was she here when she visited you?”
“No. I don’t know, we’re both under the same rain, but maybe I didn’t understand enough to find a way to get here, or maybe Kara was still too focused on her work. She wasn’t able to let that go, even just for a few minutes.”
“Yeah... but we’ll help her. I’m sure she’ll be here sooner or later, and we’ll play here together.” Then she shows a little smile. “Just like we used to.”
Three little girls are dancing under the rain. One with a striped shirt, one with a neon dress, and one with the big round glasses. They have the biggest smiles on their faces. Yes, they made it. Even when they’re miles apart, they can be united at one place – their childhood memories. They’ve successfully focused on happiness and not on their daily stress, and the rain’s magic is there to help.
Joanna wonders, if there are people who experience the same thing she and her friends experience. She wonders, maybe there’s others like them out there, who are luckily reminded to have a childhood spirit. Hopefully, there are. Hopefully, the rest of the world can feel the same and experience something as amazing as this. Hopefully, when the rain starts pouring down, they’re able to feel it, and not just get wet.
All they need… is tiny drops of magic.
A story by Marcella Viona Legoh
Illustration by Sienny Septibella