Community Voices: The Six Gentlemen of Shanghai


Kenny Zhang ’22

The view from Jin’s apartment.


What would happen if you put six reckless, self-indulging, and undisciplined kids under a roof for a few months? In September, when we pledged to our parents to hold ourselves accountable, we had ambitions to make this something like Friends or The Big Bang Theory. This obviously didn’t happen. Despite the great preparations made at first, including:

  • ordering groceries and cooking
  • the dishwashing schedule
  • a parental limit on the Nintendo Switch

…the “Shanghai Palace” was gradually reduced to a borderline drug-den condition after days and nights of all sorts of marathons: partying, card-games, TV-show-binging, etc. Over time, things just don’t mean what they are supposed to mean anymore. I have become accustomed to the blurring of senses and return of twilight as a sign to go to bed, and then I wake up in a pitch-black room and the flick of the light switch marks the beginning of a new day. When I wake up, I prop my body up from the bed and turn straight towards the window, to fix my eyes on the glaring incandescent beehives of the city-center office buildings’ glass walls. Despite growing up in the city center, I had never looked at the skyscrapers of Shanghai from a parallel view out of the twentieth floor of one of them. I see the flowing belt of causeway below just like the elite lawyers and bankers would after a day of overtime work.


…Sometimes when my friends go to sleep at 4 a.m. I collapse on the reclining chair in the living room and emptily gaze out the glass wall into the sleeping city. Sometimes in the drifting between soberness and sleep I mistake the silhouette of the blurry skyline, painted by the 5:30 a.m. rising sun behind them, as the mountain in Lakeville, the mountain which I would always stop and look at through the dusty and smudged French windows in the Coy stairwell after soccer practice, when I was equally fatigued and sore, with my vision impaired by the 5:30 p.m. golden twilight raying into the back of my eyes. Sometimes in the desolate city, my soul is brought back to the little wonderland of Lakeville bounded by Lake Wononskopomuc, the extended hills of the Appalachians, and the absence of cell signal. In that little wonderland, I yearned for the modern world, the clamor and commotion and the pungent smell of modernity. 

But for now:

Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus;

Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.