Decency by Emily Jungmin Yoon
published in The Paris Review, Issue 227, Winter 2018
by Emily Jungmin Yoon
When a man threw his fist into a wall next to my eye I said that was love, that love was rage. I was in the habit of loving anyone who laid a cold hand on my face and said he’d pray for me. Or anyone who prays. I thought apology was love and so I loved to hear a man say sorry. I loved to forgive because it meant I was a goddess. I forgave because he couldn’t possibly forgive himself. There’s a demon inside me, he said. Who cares if it’s a demon when it is mine and I am greedy for it. No, there isn’t, and I don’t care, do you hear me?—I’d say, and greed seemed to river through my body. Even years later I could not speak of men and their violence because I wanted to believe, yes, in such a thing as decency in men I loved. That my love was decent. All the men who wanted me beautiful, wanted me thin, wanted me with short hair, wanted me less smart, wanted me, wanted me not, wanted me with pink cheeks, wanted the best for me, wanted me in ruffled skirts, wanted me naked, wanted me dead, all the men who wanted me, men who wanted, men who are gone, not gone enough.