“Spasibo, Nadezhda. Do vstrechi,” I say—until our next meeting.
She walks back outside, and Sergei and I quietly board our train.
We have two lower berths reserved on this night train to Novosibirsk. Two young guys
are sitting on our berths, one just mixing hot water into a cup of instant soup. We tell them
not to rush at all, stay seated, take your time.
Sergei and I sit down with them. Over in one of the berths across the aisle, an older man
in black dress pants and a zipped gray jacket is snoring, on his side, beside an empty forty-
ounce bottle of Russian beer. He rolls over, squints, looking perhaps at Sergei.
“ Hehhh . What time is it?” he asks in Russian.
“Eight fifteen,” Sergei says.
“Where are we?”
He nods, moans, and returns to sleep.
The night seems so peaceful—which in Russia can only last so long.
As we speed along into the night, I hear an increasingly loud clanking next to my head.
I'm worried about the structural integrity of the window. Especially given the severe cold
outside, you do develop some sense of security that, if nothing else, this train will protect
you from the elements—you know, like a pressurized airplane cabin protects you from alti-
tude shock and instantly freezing to death thirty thousand feet in the air. It is only a slight
exaggeration to say that the wall of this train feels just as vital to your well-being. So you
can understand my anxiety when the window rattles more, then develops a cold wet coating
of water, then begins to release a stream of water onto my pillow. In darkness I see Sergei
is experiencing the same problem. He has built a dam of blankets to stem the flow of the
water on his side of the window. I do the same.
It's not ideal. But it's stable.