In the wider scheme of things, Piotr has survived imprisonment (in Poland, for something to do with a newspaper) and, even though he is the generation which followed the generation of heroes, there is an air of heroism surrounding his endurance.
And it’s not easy. Simply surviving. Piotr observes his cousin, Marek, struggling to make and maintain connections with people in Paris. He knows people, important people, “But it was a fragile affair, like a child with a constant chest cold.”
Paris is preferable to Poland but only because of Laurie; Piotr feels “shackled, held, tied to a visa, then to the system of mysterious favors on which his Polish passport depended”. His position in Paris is tentative, as tentative as his relationship to Laurie.
And, in the end, everything is. Each of them, whether forty-something or not, is “like a child with a constant chest cold”, ready to succumb to an infectious wave, prepared to fall like an oak leaf from a pocket, like a lonely spouse from a window.