Mr. Black stops helping Oskar search a few months later, leaving Oskar feeling alone. Oskar goes to Grandma’s apartment, but she’s not home. He imagines terrible things that could have happened.
Suddenly, Oskar hears a sound in the guest room. He realizes that the renter actually exists.
Oskar calls out that he’s looking for his grandma. The renter writes in a notebook that he doesn’t speak and that his name is Thomas. Oskar tells Thomas that his dad, who’s dead, was also named Thomas. Oskar asks when Grandma will return because Oskar needs her. Thomas invites Oskar to sit with him and wait for Grandma.
Oskar asks Thomas questions about his past, but Thomas shrugs his shoulders. Even so, Oskar tells Thomas about the key and the vase as if talking to Grandma.
Oskar tells Thomas about all the people named Black. Fo Black, who lives in Chinatown and rarely leaves, mistook the “NY” on “I love NY” merchandise for the Chinese word for “you,” and bought a ton of it. Oskar and Mr. Black go to Staten Island to meet Georgia Black and her husband, who made museums of each other’s lives even though they’re both still alive. Oskar hadn’t wanted to take the ferry there because it’s an obvious target and he’d recently printed out an image of a ferry crash. However, Mr. Black convinces him.
Ruth Black lives on the eighty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building, which makes Oskar panicky. Mr. Black assures him it’s okay to worry, and they visit the observation deck. Oskar imagines a terrorist flying a plane into the building. He would lock eyes with the terrorist and say, “I hate you,” just as the terrorist said the same to him. He tries to imagine whom he would call in those last moments.