A few days later, Miles goes to see Alaska, and when he gets to her room, she is melting down a candle. Miles tells her not to burn herself, and she quotes back, “Night falls fast./ Today is in the past.” Miles recognizes the quote from a biography he read of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Alaska asks him why he reads people’s biographies but never their actual writing. Miles responds that he is more interested in who people were than what they had to say. Miles thinks that the line she quoted is about nighttime, but she tells him it’s about depression. Miles and Alaska spend the rest of the morning melting down candles to create one giant candle and smoking cigarettes lit from the candlelight.
The poem Alaska quotes to miles ends with the lines, “The once confined thing/ is never free,” which suggests that escape from the labyrinth of suffering is impossible. Had Miles paid attention to what Millay wrote when he was reading about her instead of just looking for her last words, he might have been concerned that Alaska said these in response to his warning about burning herself. Alaska seems to be suggesting that she might as well get hurt because there’s no hope that things will get better.
The Colonel shows up unexpectedly and invites Miles and Alaska to come back to his house for dinner. As they drive to his town, the Colonel explains that he isn’t thrilled they’re coming, because he’s going to have to sleep in a tent, but his mother insisted that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving. Miles initially thinks that the Colonel is joking about the tent, but when he arrives at the Colonel’s house, he realizes he was being serious. He and his mother live in a small trailer with only one bed. Miles now understands why the Colonel hates the wealthy Weekday Warriors so much. The Colonel apologizes to Miles and Alaska if his poverty makes them uncomfortable, but Alaska says that “poor is poor” and she understands.
Earlier in the novel, Miles felt like the Colonel’s hatred of the Weekday Warriors was unwarranted, even though Miles blindly hates anything having to do with sports. Once Miles realizes that, like his feelings about sports, the Colonel’s hatred is based on years of memories of feeling different from everyone else, he understands it much better. The generosity of Miles’ mother speaks to her character—she has very little to offer, but she is generous with what she has.
Alaska helps the Colonel’s mom, Dolores, cook dinner, while Miles and the Colonel play video games. The food is delicious and Miles realizes that the Colonel is not embarrassed by his mom or her job as a cook at Waffle House. Miles feels like he understands the Colonel better after having met his family, and he hopes that one day he’ll be able to meet Alaska’s family as well.
Meeting the Colonel’s mother makes Miles feel closer to the Colonel, who is already fairly easy to understand, so Miles hopes that by meeting Alaska’s family, he might gain a better understanding of who she is. Despite having spent all of Thanksgiving with her, she still seems as mysterious as ever.
Dolores insists that Alaska and Miles sleep in the bed, while she sleeps on the couch and the Colonel sleeps outside. Miles counts the three layers of fabric that separate him from Alaska. He stays up all night imagining their mutual Great Perhaps.
Once again, Miles measures his degree of separation from Alaska, and this time they are two layers closer together. This feels like very little space to Miles, and he is excited by their proximity.