Issue #18 |

Big Sung

I’d stopped into the Wawa on Joppa Road for cigarettes and was heading back to the car when someone shouted my name. By the back entrance, an Asian guy waved from under the awning. He started up the sidewalk, stepping around a white girl rummaging through the trash. When the sun revealed his broad, grinning face, I saw it was Sung Kim. He was a little thinner than I remembered, but it was clearly him. He was still a big guy, at least for a heroin addict.

“I can’t believe it!” he shouted. “Dan Choi!”

I stood frozen as Sung lumbered towards me. It had been a long time. The last I heard he’d stolen a television, several gold chains, and three-hundred dollars out of John Park’s apartment in Glen Burnie, where Sung had stayed for a few weeks after his parents finally threw him out. That had been five or six years ago. It felt like a different life.

“Bro,” he said, looking me up and down. “You haven’t changed at all.”

“Sure I have.”

“No, what I mean is you look good.”

I gave him my hand to shake, but he shoved it aside and hugged me. Though it was a warm summer day, Sung wore a gray puffer jacket, which he left unzipped over a white tee shirt, and a surprisingly decent-looking pair of jeans. He smelled, though, the way every homeless person does—like raw meat left out in the sun. His black hair, which had been buzzed in the years I’d known him, now sat on his shoulders, so oily it looked nearly blue in the light.

If he was self-conscious, he didn’t show it.

“Cassie!” he said, whipping around. “Come over here and meet my good friend.”

The white girl quit rooting through the trash and stared at us from under the awning. She didn’t seem to want to move, but eventually, she stepped into the light. Like Sung, she looked ready for fall in an enormous Ravens windbreaker and parachute pants. Still, I could tell she was all skin and bones underneath. It hurt to look at her.

“Dan, Cassie,” Sung said, extending his arm. “Cassie, Dan.”

“Hey,” she said to me. “You think I could get a smoke?”

“Oh,” I said. “Sure.”

“Let me get one, too,” Sung said.

I eyed the Newport tucked behind his ear. “No problem.”

I gave them one Marlboro each and handed over my lighter. Sung lit his, but Cassie slipped her cigarette, gingerly, inside the front pocket of her windbreaker. Sung made a big show of returning the lighter, like he was doing me a favor and wanted me to remember.

I fished a cigarette out for myself. Just one, I thought. Then I’d go.

“So,” Sung said, clapping me on the back. “How you been?”

“Oh, you know.”

“But I don’t,” he said excitedly. “What is Dan Choi up to these days?”

“Not much, really. I guess I’m just working at the store.”

“Hold up. You don’t mean your parents’ spot, do you?”

“Yeah,” I said warily.

Sung laughed, exhaling smoke through his cracked lips.


“Nothing,” he said. “Just didn’t think you’d still be there.”


To read this story in its entirety, please purchase a copy of Issue #18 or you can subscribe to the print edition.

author David Kim standing against a brick wall

David Kim received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Maryland, and his writing has previously been published in the Baltimore Review. He currently resides in Baltimore and is at work on a collection of linked stories examining the lives of first- and second-generation Korean Americans.

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