Summary: Chapter 6

Thomas explains that as a rule he and Grandma never talk about the past. Their marriage is full of unspoken rules. 

After he started going to the airport every day to get newspapers for Grandma, he discovered that he loves being there. He likes seeing people reunited and lives vicariously through their joy. He thinks he and Grandma expected they could reunite like that even though they barely knew each other in Dresden.

Soon after they marry, Thomas and Grandma mark areas of their apartment as “Nothing Places,” where either of them could go when they wanted to be nothing. As they label more things as “nothing,” the divide becomes more complicated. Sometimes a vase labeled nothing casts a something shadow. Soon their apartment becomes more nothing than something. One day, Thomas starts undressing in front of Grandma in what he thinks is a nothing place, and she’s incensed. They look at a blueprint of the apartment and delineate something from nothing. The night before Thomas leaves, he tries to tell Grandma she’s something by covering her face with his hands and lifting them like a bridal veil. 

Thomas remembers the day he met Anna. When their fathers, who are old friends, meet up, Thomas and Anna start talking. He tells her he wants to be a sculptor. She says he’ll be a great artist. He declares he’s already great, but she meant famous. He claims he doesn’t care about fame. She says Thomas doesn’t understand himself, but there’s nothing wrong with that. When she departs, Thomas feels she’s taken the core of him with her, leaving him a shell.

The next day he walks to Anna’s house, but Anna isn’t there. This continues for six days, until one day, Thomas bumps into someone, only to discover it’s Anna. They have missed each other the past six days because they had gone to each other’s house. Thomas asks if she likes him.

Thomas encourages Grandma to write her life story on a typewriter he set up in the guest room, which is a nothing place. She protests that her eyes are bad, and she doesn’t know how to write. He tells her there’s nothing to know, and she promises to try. She works on it for months before giving it to Thomas. The pages are blank. Thomas remembers he’d taken the ink ribbon out of the typewriter. Grandma’s eyes must be worse than he’d imagined. He tells her that her writing is wonderful, but he needs to take his time to read it. He believes he’s failed her.