Chang spoke / Eng paused. Chang threw a beach ball / Eng caught it. Chang told a white lie / Eng got caught for the lie. Chang forgot his first language / Eng picked up English. In letters, Chang referred to themselves as "I" / Eng as "we." While proselytizing, the preacher asked Chang, "Do you know where you go after you die?" Chang said, "Yes, yes, up dere." / Thinking they didn't understand, he asked, "Do you know where I go after I die?" Eng said, "Yes, yes, down dere." Chang married Adelaine / Eng married her sister Sally. Chang made love to his wife / Eng daydreamed about money, his Siam childhood and roast beef. He tried not to get aroused. Chang checked his watch, scratched his head and fidgeted/ Eng made love to his wife. Chang became drunk, knocked Eng out with a whiskey bottle and went carousing with his boys / Eng was unconscious. Chang proved Einstein's time dilation while drunkenly running from one bar to the next / Eng was unconscious. Chang apologized / Eng grudgingly accepted. Chang paused / Eng spoke / Chang interrupted. "I am my own man!" / Eng echoed, "We are men yes." * Both broke their bondage with their pitchman, Mr. Coffin. Both owned land in North Carolina and forty slaves. Both were nostalgic for Siam: childhood of preserving duck eggs, watching tiger and elephant fights with the King, Mother Nok who loved them equally. The physicians were surprised to find both were "personable." Both did not appreciate the outhouse joke. "Are all Orientals joined?" "Allow me to stick this very sharp pin in Eng's neck to see if both of you feel the pain." "Is it true that you turn babies into cabbages?" "We are nice, civilized people. We offer you bananas." Both were sick of fascination. Both woke up, played checkers, sired children, owned whips for their slaves, shot game, ate pie. Both wore French black silk, smoked cigars, flirted. Both believed in the tenets of individualism. Both listed these activities to the jury and cried, "See, we are American!" Both were released with a $500 fine for assaulting another head hunter. Both were very self-aware. Both insisted on an iron casket so that grave robbers would not dig up their bodies and sell them to the highest bidder. Both did not converse with one another except towards the end: "My lips are turning blue, Eng" / Eng did not answer. "They want our bodies, Eng." / Eng did not answer. "Eng, Eng! My lips are turning blue." / Eng turned to his body and did not answer.
Reprinted from Translating Mo'um by Cathy Park Hong. Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Park Hong. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.