Summary: Chapter 6

The next morning, Saeed’s father says goodbye and then leaves the house so that it’s easier for Saeed and Nadia to depart. Along with necessities, Saeed takes a photo of his parents and a flash drive with more photos. 

On their way to the meeting point, Saeed and Nadia cannot hold hands but allow their knuckles to brush. They know the agent could have sold them out, and they could be walking to their deaths. 

The rendezvous point is at an abandoned dentist’s office. A man with an assault rifle takes their final payment and waves them into the waiting room. Eventually, the agent summons them into the exam room. The agent tells Saeed to go through the door first, but Saeed doesn’t trust the agent and doesn’t want Nadia to be left behind. The door looks like utter darkness. Nadia gives Saeed’s hands a squeeze and then steps through.

Nadia collapses when she reaches the other side, crawling forward to allow space for Saeed. They have emerged in a public restroom. When they walk outside, they see they’re at a beach club. Near the club they find a refugee camp where people live in lean-tos and tents. Saeed and Nadia learn from the refugees that they are on the Greek island of Mykonos. All the doors on the island that lead to wealthier countries are heavily guarded. 

Saeed and Nadia purchase some supplies, including a tent and local numbers for their cellphones. They set up camp. Nadia feels like they’re playing house. Saeed feels like a bad son. Nadia tries to kiss him, and he turns away brusquely but then apologizes. Nadia is shocked to see him look bitter. Saeed cannot reach his father by phone, but Nadia manages to text some acquaintances and friends in other countries. They listen to the people at camp and learn about current events and survival tips for refugees. 

Meanwhile, in Vienna, a group of militants from Saeed and Nadia’s country sneak through a door and attack unarmed civilians in an attempt to arouse suspicion against migrants. A young Viennese woman plans to go help protect refugees from a mob planning to attack a refugee camp. When she gets on the train, men glare at her and her pro-migrant badges but do not attack her. She gets off the train to head toward the riots. 

Mykonos is cold in the winter at night, and Nadia and Saeed cuddle closely, fully clothed, for warmth. The next day, the camp’s residents rush toward a new door that leads to Germany, only for armed guards to order them away. This kind of false hope becomes common in the next few days. Saeed runs into an acquaintance who promises to help them escape to Sweden, but the man absconds with the down payment they give him. 

Saeed asks Nadia why she still wears her black robes when she no longer needs them. She insists she never needed them, but she uses them to send a signal. He asks whether the signal is directed at him, too, and she says no.

Saeed and Nadia start to run low on food. One day, Saeed buys a fishing rod but catches nothing. As they leave the beach, they see four men following them. As they hurry away, Nadia slips on the rocks and cuts her arm. The men continue to follow them, so Nadia and Saeed drop the rod and hurry toward a building surrounded by guards. They set up their tent in the guards’ sightline to stay safe from the men.

Some time later, Saeed and Nadia go to the outskirts of the Old Town, where the locals live, to have the wound on Nadia’s arm checked out because it hasn’t healed. A young volunteer helps bandage Nadia’s wound. She and Nadia start talking. The woman promises to help them find a way off the island. She takes down Nadia’s number, and after that, the two of them meet often to chat. The woman eventually finds a door that Saeed and Nadia can escape through and brings them there. She hugs Nadia tightly before saying goodbye. Nadia and Saeed go through the door. 

Analysis: Chapter 6

In this chapter, Saeed and Nadia have their first major disagreement because of their different emotional reactions to leaving their country. Nadia treats setting up their tent in the refugee camp as “playing house,” which implies that she finds fun in the situation and approaches moving with a sense of adventure. When children play house, they imitate the domesticity of adult life using imagination, which indicates that Nadia doesn’t see their tent as permanent but rather a barebones version of what their new life will be. Instead of looking to the future as Nadia does, Saeed cannot leave the past behind and focuses on his father. He views the camp as a site of loss, an ending instead of a potential beginning. Therefore, Nadia trying to kiss him in a spirit of adventure and play inspires a bitterness in Saeed because her joy hurts in the face of his grief. Furthermore, her ability to immediately look forward while he still looks backward demonstrates a fundamental difference in how they view leaving their country, which foreshadows further conflict. 

The lack of infrastructure or any sort of social organization puts the residents of the refugee camp in a vulnerable situation. Because they don’t have legal recourse for crimes committed against them, Saeed and Nadia have no way to retrieve the money the scammer stole. When the group of men follows them, Saeed and Nadia do find some form of shelter in the guise of armed guards. However, these guards do not exist to protect the likes of Saeed and Nadia but, in fact, to protect doors to wealthier countries from Saeed and Nadia. They only provide a measure of protection in this case because if the men were to attack Saeed and Nadia in front of the guards, the guards would likely consider this violence a disturbance to the general peace of the island. Without utilities like running water, Nadia cannot treat a simple cut on her arm, and it begins to fester. By forcing the refugees to live without legal protections or infrastructure, only those people who are willing to take dangerous risks or commit crimes themselves thrive, leaving innocents like Saeed and Nadia in danger.

The way the government and the refugees respond to the doors reveals much about what the doors represent to each group. For the refugees, the doors to wealthier countries symbolize possibility and safety. The refugee camp in Mykonos can only act as a temporary place to stay, and so new doors offer a promise of escape. European governments, on the other hand, stringently and forcefully guard any doors that lead to the kinds of wealthy destinations where refugees might seek stability. In this way, governments view the doors as a vulnerability. These doors threaten their national borders, which brings into question why governments view borders as something that they must guard so closely, even from people fleeing difficult circumstances. The narrator notes that guards protect the doors to wealthy countries, which suggests a desire to horde resources and wealth. Thus, the governments’ desire to control the doors highlights a profoundly ungenerous aspect of inflexible borders.

While the previous chapters have dealt with people’s often fear-driven and xenophobic reactions to refugees coming through the doors, Chapter 6 reminds us that there are always good people who care for others. However, because of structural xenophobia, kind characters like the Viennese woman and the Mykonos girl must break societal expectations or even laws in order to act humanely. The way the men in the train stare angrily at the Viennese woman suggests that they feel she has betrayed her country by supporting the migrants. In anti-immigrant narratives, people often portray women as those who need protection from invaders. However, the Viennese woman here not only does the protecting but comes under threat of violence from people of her own nationality, which inherently challenges their world view of who needs protection and who is to fear, making them angry. Similarly, although the rules concerning where Nadia and Saeed can go around Mykonos aim to keep them apart from Greek citizens, the Mykonos girl breaks the spirit of those rules by developing a friendship with Nadia. She then breaks the law by smuggling Nadia and Saeed to a door for the sole reason that she likes Nadia and wants her to find safety.