• Elia Zhang

Digital relations.

By Elia Zhang

Illustration by Vanessa Mendoza
















Intimacy is not love. We were pushed together

By this trumpeting tide of thought. The two of us shared a symptom

But not together, in the sense that we reside at the same place.

It was waving, waving

With a triumphant loudness coated under a silence

Condensed, distilled

The heterotopia in which I sat beside you

Liking that version of me, not knowing if

I had projected that fondness

To the other side.


My light was reflected in you and you saw mine.

A light that made us believe the taste of an apple to be less important

Than the naming of a tree.

Our eyes were blinded when we dragged our feet into the lecture hall,

Under that light all small talk seemed utterly unbearable.

You were not a physical entity, but a passionate speaker

Argumentative enough

To drag our conversations along.

Maybe something true would come ahead of the next round

Maybe something to cling on, a thought that lays still and sound.


Shanghai, a memory filled

By the presence of you.

A talker without a body, only words

Spreading everywhere around

The dark tunnel under the subway, the shining street of phoenix trees,

My desk that was covered

By the works of authors you criticized.

I could almost see you beside every cup of my morning coffee

So indignant about human rights abuses, so knowledgeable

About the systematic oppressions whose mechanisms you’d elaborate;

A fervent faith in justice, an icy indifference

To the living people that you touch and see.

I was lonely and I needed a direction to cling on

In a city so various, so new, yet so cold, and a year so absurd.

I could feel you everywhere, and every time

In my chest a whimper of pain.

I didn’t even realize it until

Long after I had parted from there.



How foolish it would be to believe

That it was through this tide and this tide only

That we could step into unprecedence and dance around this so-called modernity.

Now my phone is broken and I can find nothing about you;

The history of us finally destroyed

By the modernity that we once cursed.

How swift, how speedy one can change—

A fainting node amidst a web of dots

Forever stretching, enlarging; a margin unknown, a reality

Incomprehensible.



They say that the order of our world is made by words

And so were you, my friend.

And isn’t foolishness the answer

To every single question of us?






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