There Was a Time

  • onNovember 16, 2014
  • Vol.25 Autumn 2014
  • byPark Seongwon

There was a time when folk music was all the rage. There was Neil Young, Nick Garrie, the Byrds, and Toni Vescoli. Of course, it was not my time. I was born much later than that. I just listen to their songs and think about them, that’s all.

There was a time I grew a sinsemilla plant in my one-room rental. There was just one reason why. I got it after I heard that it represented the female genitalia. My friends said what I was doing was plain stupid. I even thought it was stupid. But it seemed cooler than writing the name of the girl you secretly loved on a fogged-up windowpane.

You normally learn something, even from a stupid thing, when you invest 10 months of your life into it, but there was nothing I learned from this plant. I watched it for nearly 10 months, but I couldn’t figure out why it represented the female genitalia. I didn’t know if it was because of the shape of the leaves that slightly dipped down, or the barely open flower petals, or because of the subtle scent that it gave off so quietly. I wanted to ask the girl who had told me that it represented the female genitalia as she sold it to me, but it was long after she had sold the flower shop and moved away. 

During those 10 months, I was introduced to a few girls. (Ah, lucky me.)

When they asked about my hobbies, I said: “I’m growing a sinsemilla plant. It’s supposed to represent the female genitalia. Ha ha.” 

“Oh, is that right?”

And after that, I never heard from them again. 

If I think hard, the source of my imagination may be “sinsemilla.” The reason I bought the plant is obvious. It was because of the beautiful girl who had worked at the flower shop. I dropped by the shop often for no special reason. I just asked about different flowers and orchids. Because my main objective was the flower shop girl. Then one day I had asked about an unusual-looking plant and it turned out to be the sinsemilla.

“The leaves are quite interesting.”

“It’s called a sinsemilla. They say it represents the female genitalia.”

The flower shop girl had laughed shyly and I cracked open my emergency fund. As I headed back to my room, the early sunset was smeared across the sky like wine and a delicious smell filled the alley. The wind blew just the right amount, and the sinsemilla leaves that shook in the wind occasionally struck my cheek—I found it utterly refreshing.

The flower shop closed after that and the plant died. I saw the flower shop girl again because of my friend. This friend had a dilemma and it was that his girlfriend slept with him only when he gave her a present. If he gave her an expensive present, she would come on to him, even if he didn’t want sex. He said: It means nothing’s free in life. When I met his girlfriend, I realized that she was the flower shop girl. But she didn’t recognize me. She pointed at a type of sansevieria plant and asked if we knew what it represented. When my friend said that he didn’t know, she said, “It represents the female genitalia.” She said this with a pretty smile.

I sometimes wonder: If I had given her an expensive present, would things have gone well between us?

There was a time I grew a sinsemilla plant. People may not know now, but there was a time when folk music was popular. And there was a time when sex was free. When we had to huddle together in caves, hiding from wild beasts and the cold; sex had been free then. And so we exist now. Naturally. 


by Park Seongwon

Author's Profile

Park Seongwon was born in 1969 in Daegu. He debuted in 1994 with the short story "The Will" in Literature and Society. He is a professor of creative writing at Keimyung University. He is the recipient of the Today's Young Artists Award, the Hyundae Literary Award, the Hyundae Buddhist Literature Award, and the Han Moosuk Literary Award. He has published the short story collections Steal MeWe RunWhat Makes a City, and One Day.