As the second semester begins, life seems to more or less go back to normal, though Jack notices that the sunsets—which were already quite stunning in Blacksmith—have taken on new qualities, have become epically vibrant, and last much longer. He finds Murray in the supermarket, who tells him that one of the New York émigrés, Dimitrios Cotsakis, died while surfing during the winter break. The two men trade astonished phrases as they stand in the generic food aisle. Their comments primarily center around the fact that Cotsakis was an enormous man, a trait they can’t seem to reconcile with his death. Jack finds himself suddenly and acutely attuned to the “dense environmental texture” of the supermarket, noticing the automatic doors and all of the colors surrounding him.
Faced with the death of an acquaintance, Jack is forced to reckon with the inescapable realness of death, which he seems to have been able to more or less ignore since the airborne toxic event. The fact that he becomes suddenly aware of the supermarket’s vibrancy yet again relates to Murray’s belief that grocery stores are revitalizing places full of wonder and significance. It also recalls his assertion that Americans don’t die, they shop. In this moment of existential upheaval—in which Jack can’t avoid thinking about death—it is telling that he throws himself so fully into a place designed for shopping.
Jack decides to not tell Babette about what he learned from the SIMUVAC technician about his Nyodene D. exposure. He believes she would be too distraught. Instead, he begins nestling his head between her breasts at night to feel safe.
At this point, Jack’s fear of death seems to have reduced him to silence, leaving him to follow an infantile impulse toward safety. Though he hasn’t told her anything, he depends on Babette to help hold his fears at bay.