self portrait (with/without)
With neatly diced fruit tucked into earthenware bowls. Without a real conversation
as my parents served me. With a graze of fingertips as Ma handed over the fork.
Without a napkin. With thousands of hours
worn into pixelated tokens of nothingness,
just a felt pillow on a screen. Without the laughter of a physical community from repeating each
over and over until we can’t breathe..
With online presence, a jovial
/guild "who's up"
that permeates my feeble skin. With a group of other geeks,
wandering the online wastelands, searching for rare armor blessed by gods.
With my brother, who laughed at the same raw moments, who came into my room as we sat
side by side, equally absorbed in our digital lives.
Without a sleep schedule. Without conversational skills.
With a gentle awkwardness, talking to the first
friend I made online. With a fight, where I learned that having your life on the internet meant that
stealing was different, that the toils of hours put into a game were just data
being stored on some server.
Sometimes US-West, this time Korea.
With thinking I was grown up because I saw my first penis online.
Without realizing that I was too young. With many thoughts, wondering what it feels like
to have another man's lips on mine.
With Jack Evanson. With Xbox Live.
With cross-continental Skype calls. Calls that would frame
my twilight hours, at 2am, computer on stomach, with your face
sprawled across the screen,
blurry, broken, laggy, lively
as we giggled. Dreaming, that one day, we could laugh together,
with each other, next to each other, nuzzling.
import lives, trauma from “our parents”
let me be the object of love and loss;
let you be the desires of stories untold;
let us be a world that takes in two lives (me you):
// i’m trying to remember how we met love,
// can you tell me?
// i was lost
// can i be found
// maybe we can be, together
return a bond filled with everlasting radiance;
let child_hood be a moment that takes in a bright light and returns a dimmed one:
let crushing_weight_of_existence be the trauma that our parents never got over
while crushing_weight_of_existence exists:
pray I find happiness;
pray I find peace;
pray I realize that the gentle sunrise is what gives me the life i need to sustain through the day;
pray I find you;
return a child, governed by a god that does not care;
let college be a place that harms and nurtures a soul and returns a ghost:
// longing for a love
let the_love_of_my_life be a person that has never existed;
while the_love_of_my_life does not fill the void in my heart:
let drink be a thirst that cannot be quenched:
let date be a space where our bared souls bar and returns a promise:
let date_time be the following thursday;
// i don’t know how to dress
// what should I wear
// is this too formal?
// am I too formal?
let location be the nearby bar;
let memories be hazy;
return <Promise>(to meet again)
let cry be empty:
let marry be a resolution to an indefinite promise and returns a union:
return the intersection of me and you
Ivan Zhao (he/him) is a human interested in immersive storytelling and playful experiences. He enjoys taking long naps in hammocks at the top of mountains and making fermented syrups. His greatest wish is to be petting multiple dogs at the same time.