Sailors on a British ship watch the chaos but have orders not to rescue any refugees for fear of angering the Turks. The captain takes to his bunk, assuring his subordinate that he’ll turn a blind eye to anyone saved against orders while he’s not looking.

Lefty and Desdemona awaken from sleeping on the pier to find the city burning. Pressed close to the water, they see the French consulate evacuating its citizens to ships, but they will only take French people. Lefty asks Desdemona if she’d marry him if they survive. Desdemona nods. Lefty runs to the French consulate, claiming he and his wife are French citizens whose passports burned in the fire. Lefty sees a distraught Dr. Philobosian and recognizes the man who saved him. He insists the French consulate allow his “cousin” passage as well, which they do.

Summary: Chapter 4: The Silk Road

In Athens, Desdemona, Lefty, and Dr. Philobosian switch to an America-bound ship called the Giulia . On the ship, Lefty and Desdemona pretend not to know each other. They don’t speak to each other the first day at sea and elaborately portray their first meeting, starting with glances before making small talk. The other passengers gossip about their budding romance. People speculate about Lefty’s past, imagining him a merchant or a spy. Cal interjects that more than fooling the other passengers, his grandparents were trying to fool themselves.

Eventually, Lefty proposes to Desdemona. They marry aboard the ship using borrowed clothes, performing circular Greek wedding dances. Cal notes that Greeks wed in circles to remind themselves to find variety in repetition and of the necessity of returning to where you started.

In a covered lifeboat, Desdemona strips to her wedding corset. The corset allows her to feel less herself, making it easier for her and Lefty to pretend they’re not siblings. In their lovemaking, Desdemona and Lefty attempt to defamiliarize themselves with each other. Cal interjects that his grandparents smuggled his origins aboard that ship, in the form of a recessive gene they both carried.

Lefty thinks their cousin Sourmelina’s husband can give him a job, and when he raises enough money, he plans to open a casino. Desdemona reminds him that she has her silkworms and that their parents wanted him to go to college and become an academic.