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.