Last Updated on January 30, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 813
The sounds of the rainforest are heard in the background as Sophie sweeps the floor and Josephine washes the counter. Mama stands at the door waving at a passing truck in an attempt to bring clients in. The truck passes by; Mama is discouraged by the lack of business. Sophie sings about drinking to forget.
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Christian enters the bar, and although Mama is happy to see him, she pretends she does not care. He has been traveling for months and brushes away the dust from his brand-new suit. He tells her she looks good. She asks how he managed to get beyond the roadblock, and he slyly states that the officer on guard likes Belgian chocolate and Nigerian soap operas.
Christian has heard about Salima and is surprised that Mama has not left. She sarcastically asks if he expected her to disappear and live in the forest with the Mbuti. She notices his new suit and makes fun of him, saying it’s the wrong size. She incorrectly assumes Christian’s business is doing well; he merely says a businessman should have a nice change of clothes, even during tough times.
Sophie enters and is surprised to see her uncle. Christian gives her a package of magazines and a book, along with a letter from her mother. He tells her not to expect very much, but she is overjoyed and leaves to read it.
Mama is surprised to see Christian; after everything that has happened, she believed he wanted nothing to do with her. He teases her that he did not come to see her. She looks hurt, and he finally confesses that he missed her and was not sure if he should come. When he asks if she wants to say anything to him, she hurts him by calling him foolish. He informs her that they have “unfinished ‘business!’ ” She invites him to look around, as there is no more business there. He looks at the empty bar and once again tries to convince her to settle down with him. She yells at him to go home; she has too many problems to think about another one.
Christian tells her he faced death on the road—a boy with a bayonet almost killed him. He claims that when he explained that he was on his way to profess his love, the boy let him go. Mama offers him a beer, but he asks for a soda instead. Mama seems happy at that. She offers to put on some music, but Christian reminds her that it’s pointless because she always refuses to dance with him.
He presses Mama further for an explanation as to why they cannot be together. She tries to explain her concerns. She worries that things will go wrong between them: they’ll argue; he’ll be jealous; he’ll cheat. She believes this is what men do. Christian offers to stay there and help her build a legitimate business; he says he’ll protect her and love her. She feels she does not need protection. He sees through her façade and says she needs someone to be there for her and make love to her, not use her the way all the other men have done. He tells her he loves her, despite his better judgment.
Mama says the word “love” with contempt in her voice. She sees love as poison and is afraid it will change who they are, as well as that it is too heavy a burden and not worth the trouble it brings. Yet when Christian walks to the door, she panics, thinking he will leave.
He says he has driven the same route for a long time and is getting older. He wants to have one place to sleep, one place to eat, and one person to share his life with. He is tired of the life he leads and would like to settle down. He asks her for the truth and promises to leave if she does not understand his feelings. He asks her again, “why not us?”
At first, Mama is unable to speak, and Christian turns to elave. Then, she finally confesses the truth: “I’m ruined.” Christian tells her he is sorry for whatever it is “those men” have done to her, but he believes “we, and I speak as a man, can do better.”
Christian embraces Mama tightly, attempting to comfort her. She tries to push him away at first but eventually gives in and begins to cry. He holds her and kisses her. Sophie briefly interrupts, smiling to herself, but Mama sends her away; her sad mood broken, she tells Christian nothing has changed.
Christian tells Mama this is the last time he’ll ask her to dance. He holds out his hand; tentatively, she takes it, and Sophie and Josephine watch them as they dance.