Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Journeys in the Second World

It was just after a thunderstorm and the carriage was in near-darkness as the train pulled out of Odessa. None of the lights seemed to be working, the windows didn't open, and there was nothing coming out of the air conditioning vents but dust. There were three middle-aged women sitting in the compartment, talking between ringtones. I answered their first question in Russian, the second in English. "He doesn't understand," they said, turning away.

The toilet was at the end of the carriage, a rusty metal bowl and a puddle on the floor. When I came out the conductor was pointing to a sign I hadn't seen and screaming something about zones. All I could manage was a shrug in return.

We made our beds at midnight and I jumped up onto a bunk as hard as a police station floor. My head touched the wall by the window, my feet touched the wall by the door. The door didn't close, the train rocked so much you felt you were on horseback, and the woman below had already started snoring.


Wood said...

Do you actually like it over there?

Michael said...

Put it this way, even the things I dislike are an experience worth having. I just write down what I see.

Wood said...

I like the way you've put that. I remember you once said a similar thing to me several years ago now. Makes a lot of sense for sure. It seems a pretty hard place to enjoy life though 'whatever that means'(to borrow an expression from Prince Charles). Even the stories and snippets you present us about the people you teach - the youth - well they seem world-weary and fatigued. That comes across quite clearly. Interesting all the same.