Today the other four men are removed from the cell and Zeitoun and Nasser are alone again, profoundly bored. Zeitoun tries to figure out why anyone had paid attention to them in the first place. In the past, Kathy has worried about soldiers returning to the U.S. after Iraq and Afghanistan, half-joking that they’re trained to kill people like Zeitoun. She worries about a war that doesn’t seem to have a real shape or rules.
In addition to some of the more frightening aspects of Zeitoun’s detainment, much of his time in prison is also just deathly boring. This boredom gives Zeitoun plenty of time to go over the possible motivations for his imprisonment, none of which makes him optimistic.
In 1987, in the midst of a war between Iran and Iraq, Zeitoun had been working on a ship called the Andromeda bringing Kuwaiti oil to Japan. Sometimes one nation or the other tried to blockade or damage ships bringing oil to their enemy, and Zeitoun and his shipmates knew that it was a risky move to enter the Gulf of Oman. One morning Zeitoun was woken by an explosion below: the ship had been struck by Iranian torpedoes, as a warning and to hobble the ship. While they spent a month repairing the hull in Addan, Zeitoun decided that this might be the best time to settle down and build a family. A few months later, he departed the Andromeda in Houston.
The long periods of time in which Zeitoun is left alone also give him the chance to return to his past. Zeitoun is no stranger to danger and risk, as this anecdote about the ship reveals. The recollection also underlines Zeitoun’s ability to keep calm and rational even in a crisis. Most significantly, it’s suggested that Zeitoun believed his days of endangerment were behind him once he left the Andromeda and settled down in America. Now, however, it seems this was not to be.