We stopped at Novosibirsk and waited on the platform; as with all other stops, there were locals selling soda, peanuts, pickled fish, two-minute noodles, and the powdered mash potato that had been my staple; I’d get hot water from the surly samovar attendant and with a little stirring, giving me that sense of having cooked a meal, I turned out a delicious starchy mush that paired nicely with whatever vodka was going.
There were families making the journey home with large household goods, crossing more time-zones than IKEA could deliver; soldiers bidding farewell to teary loved ones; itinerant workers decked out in hi-vis; and, at a distance I liked to maintain, others who were clearly tourists like me, although I felt less tourist like with the scene now familiar enough, so much so that I thought nothing of a lady waiting beside a kitchen sink laden with pots and pans, her layered clothing giving her slight frame a look of sturdiness, a pale blue shawl covering her head like a matryoshka doll; she didn’t look strong enough to be moving her belongings but it became evident that it was mounted on wheels, a fact I noted when she began to inch it closer to the edge of the platform, not minding the gap as she joined forces with her inner matryoshka and gave it a heave over the edge, the cacophony of clanging metal catching the attention of the others.
Anticipating the third act in this drama, we turned to our left in unison, eyes fixed on the train from Moscow that was chugging along through the tunnel, two bright balls of light shooting across on rails, too fast to stop and avoid a collision, sending the sink flying through the air and bouncing a few times before being squashed like a Scandinavian flat pack as the train came to a screeching stop while Ms. Matryoshka, feet firmly planted on the platform, hand on hips, let out an uproarious laugh, dusted her hands with pride in her efforts, bought a bag of nuts and boarded the train, her baggage reduced to just a red handbag and a metal colander with swirls of cooked pasta that had dried and clung to its insides, making it look like a brain.
A story inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales Week 94 (anyone else see a train approaching through a tunnel, heading toward the sink full of dishes?) and an eventful Tran-Siberian journey I took in 2007. I dug out the photo after writing this story. In my memory it had been a kitchen sink I had seen sitting on the platform, but turns out it was a bathtub- still a surprising scene.