On Friday afternoon, Jende finds out that the judge has granted his request for voluntary departure. Bubakar tells him that he has to leave by the end of September. Jende grins and says that’ll be no problem; he’s ready. In fact, he’s already bought tickets from Air Maroc. He’ll be out of the country by August. He tells Bubakar that Neni isn’t happy to leave, but she’s packing. Bubakar warns Jende to make sure that Neni isn’t spending too much money buying things because women like to spend too much on things that make them look good.
Jende’s choice to depart voluntarily leaves him with some semblance of dignity. Though his time in America didn’t turn out as expected, he has at least escaped the fate that he feared most: being forced out of the country by men in uniform. Bubakar’s sexist comment about Neni perpetuates the stereotype that women are vain and materialistic.
Jende actually gives Neni more money than he intended because doing so was the only thing he could do to make her smile. She ends up buying things not easily found in Limbe: dollar-store toys for the children, foods in jars and the sweet cereal that Liomi likes; clothes that will help them “preserve their American aura.” For herself, she buys beauty creams and anti-aging moisturizers in Chinatown—items that she hopes will help her maintain her looks and keep him from being tempted by the loose women she’d heard were not “aplenty” in Limbe.
Neni uses material goods to make up for not being able to keep her children in the U.S. She is keen on maintaining her appearance, afraid of women who may avail themselves to Jende because he’ll return to Cameroon with a lot of money. Poverty and the oppression of women in a patriarchal system force them into competition with each other.
On a Sunday evening, Jende takes Neni to dinner at Red Lobster, while Winston and Maami watch their children, and tells Neni that she’ll live like a queen in Limbe. He takes her hands and kisses them the way he sees men do so in the movies. After paying the bill, they walk to Times Square. They stand side by side and hold on to the moment. Neni thinks about how there’s no Times Square in Limbe. No billboards that’ll flash things that she wishes she had the money to buy. No McDonald’s. No people of many colors and speaking many languages, running around to countless fun places. There’d be no pharmacy career and no condo in a New York suburb. She buries her face in Jende’s shoulder and begs herself to be happy.
Jende’s promise that Neni will “live like a queen” is undesirable to her because she isn’t interested in being spoiled—she’s interested in feeling successful. When she returns to Limbe, she’ll likely be no more than Jende’s wife and the mother of his children. Though she can be proud of her work to be a good wife and mother, it isn’t enough. The problem that Neni has with Limbe is that it doesn’t offer enough, whereas New York offers too much to discover in a lifetime.