Later Hominy and the narrator are riding the bus, and Hominy feels like he cannot wait to give up his seat to a white person. A woman with dreadlocks gets on the bus and wishes Hominy a happy birthday, telling him that “Happy Birthday, Hominy!” was emblazoned on the front of the bus. Hominy tells the woman that his birthday present is a sign on the bus telling passengers that seating is reserved for “seniors, disabled, and whites.” When the narrator had asked what Hominy wanted as a present, Hominy replied that he wanted “some racism.”
Hominy’s wish for “some racism” is obviously ridiculous, even in the context of his seemingly masochistic personality. At the same time, the narrator’s desire to give him whatever he wants—even if it is something as absurd as a sign on the bus demanding racial discrimination—is somewhat sweet. It points to the remarkable depth of the narrator’s love for Hominy.
The narrator recently realized that Hominy and Rodney King have the same birthday, April 2. He wonders if LA contains “racism vortexes” and mulls over the history of racist incidents in the city. A man on the bus claims that he is offended, and the narrator asks what he means, claiming that offence isn’t a real emotion. Marpessa is driving, having agreed to “convert the #125 bus into a rolling party center” out of love for Hominy. The angry man calls the narrator a “race pervert” and claims that he has “set black people back five hundred years.” Meanwhile, Hominy finally gets his wish of giving up his seat to a white woman.
The man’s accusation that Hominy is a “race pervert” strengthens the association between Hominy’s desires for racism and erotic masochism. This association raises the question of which desires are considered acceptable and which aren’t. Part of the problem in this instance is that Hominy’s desire for racism isn’t just affecting himself, but other members of public (and, by the man’s logic, black people at large). Rodney King was a black man who was brutally beaten by LA police in 1991, sparking many riots in response.
After the white woman stays on the bus for the entire three-hour route and back again, Marpessa suspiciously asks the narrator if he knows her. Marpessa calls the woman to the front of the bus, and the narrator is stunned by how beautiful the woman is. Suddenly Marpessa demands that everyone she doesn’t personally know disembarks. When the woman tries to leave, Marpessa stops her and asks her name. The woman replies: “Laura Jane.” The bus has suddenly been transformed into a moving party with an open bar, casino, and DJ. Laura Jane dances with Hominy, who grips the overhead pole.
Although it is not made explicit why Marpessa is so suspicious of the white woman, it may have something to do with the fact that the woman is riding the bus in Dickens when she is white. This highlights the dramatic extent of racial segregation in the city, and calls into question whether things really have advanced that much since the Jim Crow era (as wells as whether the narrator’s “re-segregating” idea might not be so absurd after all).
Laura Jane tells Marpessa that she is an actress who works part-time as a submissive to pay the bills. She explains that she’s often turned down for roles because she’s “not suburban enough,” which is code for looking too Jewish. She adds that it makes her wish she was black because black people get all the roles. Marpessa starts strangling her in response to this. Marpessa then goes on a rant about the racial logic of advertising. In the middle of this Laura Jane claims to be offended, saying that Marpessa is “a beautiful woman who just happens to be black,” and scolding her for thinking race is the problem, rather than class.
Laura Jane voices many of the misguided views white people typically hold about race. For example, she mistakenly believes that being black would provide her with an advantage, rather than cause her to face further discrimination in most other areas of life. She also disingenuously diminishes the significance of race (“who just happens to be black”) and believes that focus on race distracts from the more important goal of focusing on class.
Laura Jane kisses Marpessa’s forehead, then returns to Hominy. The narrator stops Marpessa from hitting Laura Jane, which leads Marpessa to accuse the narrator of being “a fucking sellout.” She claims that this is why she broke up with him. Marpessa drives the bus onto the beach and into about a foot of ocean. Laura Jane strips off her clothes and leaps out into the water. Hominy asks if they are in Dickens, and the narrator replies that “Dickens exists in our heads.” Hominy then asks when they are going to get his Little Rascal films from Foy, and the narrator promises that they will once they get the city back.
People accuse the narrator of being a “sellout” for different reasons. However, each time the accusation is made it is based on the idea that the narrator is somehow betraying his race. Foy makes the accusation because the narrator does not subscribe to Foy’s own views about blackness, whereas Marpessa calls him a sellout because he defends Laura Jane against her, thereby betraying her.
Marpessa sees the narrator staring lustfully at Laura Jane’s naked body and curses him for “fiending after some white bitch like every other LA nigger.” Marpessa asks when the narrator fell in love with her, and he replies it was when she complained about the way black women are described in literature in the Dum Dum Donuts book club. Marpessa pointed out that black women are always identified by the food metaphors describing the shade of their skin—“Honey-colored this! Dark chocolate that!”—and declared “that’s why black literature sucks!”
Marpessa criticizes the narrator for being weak-willed, and he loves her for being the opposite—standing up for herself and being unafraid to voice her opinion (even when she is in the minority). This reverses the stereotypical idea that men find strong-minded women off-putting, and that men are themselves naturally more dominant.
The narrator does not believe that Marpessa ever loved him, but then she tells him she fell in love with him when they went out to eat and, unlike other black men, he never insisted on sitting with his face to the door.
The end of this chapter suggests that, despite her complaints, perhaps Marpessa does like how the narrator is humbler and more unassuming than other men. The idea of sitting facing the door is a tradition of chivalry—that the man should be watchful to keep the woman safe—but also of suspicion and paranoia, which plays into stereotypes of black men leading violent lives.