Paul Yoon, "Once the Shore"

An older woman comes to a Korean resort to look for the love note her lover craved into a cave wall 30 years ago.

(from Best American Short Stories 2006)

On this particular evening the woman told the waiter about her husband’s hair: parted always to his right and combed finely so that each strand shone like amber from the shower he took prior to meeting her for their evening walks. “There was a time,” the woman said, “when he bathed for me and me alone.” She knew his hair—its length, smell, and color—long before she knew the rest of him. Before he left for the Pacific. Before his return and their marriage and their years together. When she opened the door it was what she noticed first. And in the heat of the remaining sun, she swore you could see a curtain of mist rising from the peak of his thin head.

So she’s got that interesting story. And she befriends the young waiter Jim who just lost his brother who was in a fishing boat that was struck by an American submarine surfacing from underneath. That’s interesting, too. But this is art, not action, so those lines are not pursued. They’re brushed aside so the story can focus on internal conflict, exploring the way these people deal with loss. It beautifully done. Am I lowbrow for wanting to know whether that cave carving still exists, or ever existed?
Excerpt and Q&A with Paul Yoon at One Story.

Belle & Sebastian, “Is It Wicked Not To Care?”

One thought on “Paul Yoon, "Once the Shore"

  1. KR

    I really loved that story, and thought it was probably the best in the collection. I wanted to know if it existed, too. :)


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