Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to one another, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.

The narrator says this in Chapter 9, in describing Nadia and Saeed’s estrangement from each other in the aftermath of the siege on Dark London. Here, we see how aspects of Saeed and Nadia’s characters that they have understood about each other from the beginning mean different things to them outside of the context of their home country. Saeed doesn’t mind Nadia wearing her black robe in their home country because he reads it as an understandable protective measure she takes as a woman alone. However, in London, where Nadia actively avoids people from their country, the robe only serves to remind Saeed that she doesn’t value their culture or religion in the same way he does. What once read as attractive rebelliousness now reads as a mockery of his culture. Conversely, in their home country, Nadia didn’t mind Saeed’s religiousness because unlike other religious people she knew, he never forced it upon her. Now, perhaps because she knows Saeed would like her to join him in connecting with their culture, she sees Saeed’s prayers as something that rebuke her.

The quotation compares people to illuminated screens, which also evokes the cell phones that Nadia and Saeed focus on instead of paying attention to each other. The image of cell phones harkens back to the important role cell phones played early on in Saeed and Nadia’s relationship, when they used photos and messages to cultivate a false sense of closeness. Because of the extent of their flirtation and easy intimacy, Nadia misinterprets Saeed as being less conservative around sex than he actual is. Not only do illuminated screens look different in different lights, but sometimes the images they show do not tell the full picture. The way Nadia reacts to the reality of Saeed early on in their relationship, with a desire to adapt and compromise, has also changed, just as Saeed’s reaction to the reality of Nadia has. Although they still find each other attractive, in the light of the London work camp, their sexual attraction to each other has dwindled.