Throughout this chapter, Thomas tells lies to protect Grandma from the fact that he doesn’t love her, but these falsehoods cannot protect Grandma or Thomas from the truth. By lying to Grandma about her memoir, Thomas claims he’s trying to spare her feelings, but even he recognizes that there’s a good chance she sees through his deception. By lying to Grandma, Thomas denies himself the opportunity to read her memoir and grow close to her, and also causes himself anxiety that he’ll be caught. Thomas’s ambiguous hand gestures to express his feelings also show the probability that the truth that he doesn’t love Grandma will become clear. He claims that touching her face with both hands tells her that she’s “something.” However, because of his tattoos, she actually exists sandwiched between “yes” and “no,” ambiguous and . In this sense, Thomas’s gesture identifies her as something not neatly categorized and therefore not comfortable. Because of Thomas’s grief for Anna, Grandma is not a “yes” because she’s not Anna, but she’s not a “no” because she is deeply connected to Anna, as her sister. Thomas still leaves Grandma, so his attempts to cover up the ugliness of his true feelings don’t protect her in the end.
The way Thomas and Grandma’s apartment eventually becomes more “nothing” than “something” indicates Thomas’s unwillingness to build a life in the present with Grandma. Thomas ties existence with taking present action when he mentions Simon’s comment that “trying is being.” This comment echoes when Grandma promises Thomas that she will “try” to write her life story. If trying is being, then by writing out her past and showing it to Thomas, even if it’s in blank spaces, Grandma attempts to become a person to Thomas and tries to live in the present. When Thomas says he can’t live, he indicates his unwillingness to meet Grandma halfway and try. He comments early on in the chapter that he and Grandma couldn’t reunite happily because they didn’t know each other well in Dresden, ignoring the possibility that they could get to know each other better now. Because of this comment, it is clear that Thomas views his ability to connect with others as something of the past. Unable to take present action, Thomas therefore just stops being, becoming nothing.
The juxtaposition of Thomas and Anna having sex and Anna’s dad’s agreeing to hide Simon Goldberg demonstrates the way intimacy and vulnerability are intertwined. Sexual intercourse is a deeply personal act that involves vulnerability and trust. Anna’s comment that the sex hurts makes clear that even joyful intimacy can bring pain. Meanwhile, Simon, who is presumably Jewish, must allow himself to admit his own vulnerability in asking Anna’s dad to hide him. Anna’s dad, in protecting a Jewish man from the Nazis, puts himself in danger, making himself vulnerable. This scene therefore portrays the exchange of trust between Anna’s dad and Simon as an intimate act, on par with having sex with someone. They are each putting their physical safety in the hands of the other. This juxtaposition also shows that the darkness and ugliness of the world continues even in the face of joy and love. Thomas and Anna are oblivious to the horrors going on around them, even the ones right next door. Conversely, despite the dangers of the world, Thomas and Anna fall in love, and Anna’s dad lovingly agrees to protect his friend, even at great risk to himself.