The following day, Hazel, Mrs. Lancaster, and Augustus go to a café where Hazel and Augustus reenact their incident with Van Houten. Hazel notes that one has a choice in how a sad story is told, and they choose humor to tell this story. When Mrs. Lancaster asks what they did afterward they say they went to the Anne Frank house and then hung out at a café.
Hazel and Augustus choose to tell the Van Houten story in a humorous way to avoid ruining their memory of the trip, this idea however, connects to Hazel’s telling of her story in The Fault in Our Stars. She has the ability to choose how to remember Augustus and their time together.
Mrs. Lancaster then leaves abruptly, saying that she is going to give them some time to talk. She tells Hazel she loves her three times and walks away. Hazel senses something is not right. Augustus motions toward the shadow of tree branches on the sidewalk, saying that it is a good metaphor—“the negative image of things blown together and then blown apart.” He suggests they go to the hotel. Hazel asks if they have time, and Augustus replies, “if only.” She asks what is wrong, but Augustus only nods in the direction of the hotel.
Hazel’s mother’s actions clue her into the fact that something is not right, and repetitively saying “I love you” to Hazel shows that she is concerned, but supportive of her having this adult conversation with Augustus without her. Augustus’ mention of the shadows of things blown together then apart speaks metaphorically to their relationship, and the mention of things “blown apart” alludes to Hazel’s grenade metaphor. This image foreshadows the news Augustus is about to reveal.
On the way to the hotel, Hazel thinks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which states that as long as one’s basic needs are not met, one can not even begin to think about social needs, security, art, or strive toward “self-actualization”. Hazel believes that this hierarchy is misleading because according to the theory, she would be stuck at a lower level and not even able to think about social needs, relationships, security, philosophy, or art. But her relationship with Augustus seems to suggest otherwise. She thought Augustus could love her because he’d been sick, but it occurs to her that he might still be sick.
Hazel disagrees with Maslow’s hierarchy based on her own experience. If a person needs their health and safety in order to think about love, art, or self-actualization, then how can Hazel thinks about all of these things regularly? This thought seems to come out of nowhere, but it foreshadows the fact that Augustus has been sick, yet he has been able to love Hazel.
When Augustus and Hazel get back to the hotel room, Augustus takes a seat in a chair and puts a cigarette in his mouth. He reveals to Hazel that just before they left he had a PET scan that revealed his cancer had returned and has spread through his body. Augustus clenches his teeth and Hazel knows that he is trying not to hurt Hazel by letting her see him cry.
As typical, Augustus puts a cigarette in his mouth in attempt to find control over the situation. In this scene the rolls are reversed. Hazel is no longer the grenade in the situation. Augustus is suddenly the one who wants not to hurt or burden Hazel, as shown by his attempt not to cry.
Hazel moves over and places her head on Augustus’ lap. He apologizes for not telling her. She is unable to be mad at him, and in that moment realizes that he is now the grenade in the relationship. She understands that it is foolish to try to save others from her death. She cannot stop loving him now. Augustus begins crying, and pulls Hazel into him tightly. He tells her he will fight it for her. He kisses her on the head, and she feels his chest deflate a little. Augustus then says, “I guess I had a hamartia after all.”
Hazel realizes that the roles in the relationship have changed, and realizes that she was wrong to keep others from her because of her health. Having fallen in love with Augustus, she begins to understand that she can’t and would not stop loving him because of his cancer. Augustus feels guilty about hurting her, and notes that he was the one with the hamartia, or fatal flaw, all along, suggesting that he also realizes the change in roles.
Hazel and August lay in bed for a while. He tells her that he stopped the chemo to go to Amsterdam with her, and his parents had been furious, which was why they were fighting the morning they left. Augustus then tells her he feels like he conned her into believing she was falling in love with a healthy person. Hazel tells him she would have done the same to him.
Augustus went against his parents wish to continue chemo, which shows the way that he is exerting his independence. Augustus feels guilty about his cancer, but Hazel understands being someone who has lived with cancer.
While laying in bed, Hazel asks Augustus if he is in pain. He says no, but says that he likes being alive, but he doesn't even get a battle. Hazel finds herself cheering him up with clichés, which she hates, but doesn't know what else to do. She tells Augustus that cancer is his battle. Augustus dismisses her encouragements, stating that the cancer is him, and it's a war he can not win. Hazel calls him Gus then, but doesn't have anything to say. After a moment Augustus says that if you go to the Rijksmuseum (an art museum in Amsterdam), you will not see one painting of a cancer kid because there is no glory in illness. Hazel then offers Augustus as an example of the way in which Maslow’s theory is false. In the face of his own death, Augustus is contemplating art.
Being put in the position of someone who loves a person who is dying of cancer, she resorts to clichés, which she typically hates. This experience allows her to identify and sympathize with those people in her life, like her parents, who do the best they can to love and care about her, even though they don't always know how. Augustus begins to come to terms with the fact that his cancer is not heroic, and he may not be remembered by the world for a heroic feat. Hazel notes that Augustus’ mention of the Rijksmuseum refutes Maslow’s hierarchy, showing the way in which philosophy does not always represent reality.