Cindy is always cordial, albeit remote, around Jende. Still, he stiffens up every time she gets in the car with him. He’s thankful that she’s on her phone most days. One Tuesday, after Jende’s been on the job for two weeks, Cindy visits her eldest son, Vince. Jende notices how much the young man resembles his father. Cindy is ecstatic to see him and, based on what Mighty told Jende, it’s possible that they haven’t seen each other in months. Two hours after their lunch, Cindy is devastated to learn that Vince won’t be going with his family to Aspen, Colorado, for Christmas. Instead, she tells Clark, he wants to go to “some silent retreat in Costa Rica.” When her husband seems indifferent to this, Cindy hangs up on him and tosses her phone onto the seat of the car in frustration.
Jende’s discomfort with Cindy may be a reflection of the worry that many black men feel when alone with white women. Their fears of false accusations and causing inadvertent offense are rooted in both America’s racist history and Africa’s colonial history. Vince’s decision to spend Christmas alone, despite his mother’s eagerness to be with him, is Jende’s first glimpse into Vince’s wish to create a separate and distinct life from the one offered by his parents. Cindy is frustrated by both her husband’s reaction and her powerlessness to keep her family close to her.
Cindy calls Clark back and asks if he’s going to Mighty’s piano recital. Jende notices that her voice sounds “drenched in agony.” He wishes that someone would call her with good news or funny news, anything to help the woman cheer up. Her phone rings again: it’s Clark. He says that he can’t make it to Mighty’s recital but will “make it up to him.” Cindy is outraged and, once again, hangs up on her husband and tosses her cell phone aside.
Clark’s clearly unwilling to make time for his family, suggesting that he’s more committed to his career and reputation than being fully present for his son. His offer to “make it up to” Mighty is probably empty, given Cindy’s exasperated reaction. Her hanging up on Clark mirrors his disregard.
Cindy sits for several minutes in a state of glumness, “resting her head in her hand” until she picks up the phone and calls her friend Cheri to let her know that she’d be happy to accompany her on a visit to her mother the following week. Cindy then calls her other best friend, June, to commiserate with someone, but June’s busy. For the remaining ten minutes of the ride, Cindy makes no calls, but sits quietly, “watching happy people marching up and down Madison.”
Figuring that she can’t do anything to improve her situation with her own family, Cindy immerses herself in her friends' needs. When June can't avail herself to hear Cindy's problems, Cindy sits quietly observing those whom she thinks must be happier than she. The narrative suggests that the appearance of happiness isn’t always true.