The narrator claims that he is frigid, because when he was sex he lies completely still. When Marpessa kisses him with lips that taste of satsuma, he freezes, “motionless.” However, she doesn’t seem to mind. The narrator asks if they are getting back together, and she replies that she is thinking about it. Marpessa is the only person to “diagnose” the narrator—even his father claimed to have no idea what was wrong with him. Marpessa, on the other hand, once declared that the narrator has “Attachment Disorder,” a condition involving problems with social attachment. The narrator concludes that it was “a miracle” he and Marpessa were together as long as they were.
The narrator’s “frigidity,” even now that he has finally won Marpessa back, is difficult to explain. Considering he loves her so much, the fact that he would he suddenly be “motionless” when they have sex suggests a continued sense of anxiety or insecurity. The mysteriousness of the narrator’s behavior helps emphasize that Marpessa is the only person to truly understand him.
Marpessa points out that people didn’t really love Dickens even when it existed. The narrator then realizes that it was Marpessa who threw the satsuma at Foy. Marpessa boasts that she “hit that stupid motherfucker square in the face.” Although they’ve had sex for the first time in seventeen years, Marpessa now insists that they take things slow. They begin going on dates on Mondays and Tuesdays, sometimes going to open-mic nights at the Plethora Comedy Club. Occasionally the narrator performs at the nights, and Marpessa tells him to improve his jokes, saying that she refuses to go out with the only black man in the world without a sense of humor.
Marpessa and the narrator may be back together, but the challenge of winning her over is not done. Indeed, Marpessa makes the narrator prove himself through certain tasks, again highlighting the parallel between the narrator’s love for her and his desire to bring back Dickens. Both goals create a kind of quest that requires the narrator to use his skills and prove his worth.
The narrator claims that LA is a “mind-numbingly racially segregated city,” and says that the stand-up comedy world is the most segregated of all. The Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals host the open-mic night, entitled “the Comedy Act and Forum for the Freedom of Afro-American Witticism and Mannerisms That Showcase the Plethora of Afro-American Humorists for Whom…” There is more to the title, but the narrator has never managed to read it in full. The narrator calls the club the Plethora for short.
One of the reasons the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals are so funny is that they take themselves deeply seriously. Even their attempt to put on a stand-up comedy night turns into an overly serious, protracted account of the talents of the race. The ultimate effect is that the Dum Dums are funny, but not in the way they intend to be.
Marpessa may think the narrator is unfunny, but the narrator claims his father was far worse. His father used to perform at the Plethora, and would tell jokes in the form of academic papers. He would even give references at the end of the joke. The narrator now dreads the nights when Marpessa makes him perform. One night, he finally tells an “original joke” and Marpessa cracks up laughing. The narrator runs straight from the stage into Marpessa’s bus and strips naked. Marpessa boards the bus and tells the narrator that even though it’s still early, so far the school segregation is working. Eventually, Marpessa and the narrator have sex.
As the novel draws to a close, a happy ending appears to be in sight. The narrator’s ability to tell a funny joke is not only a personal triumph that allows him to finally have sex with Marpessa again—it also represents a way that he breaks with the legacy of his father. Whereas the narrator’s father was incapable of telling a joke effectively, after some trial and error his son ultimately succeeds, thereby exceeding his father’s precedent in this case.