The fat singing man in the restaurant waggon. I don’t know if I can describe him, but I want to try. I am looking for some variation on the theme of being on the train, and hence start walking up and down the mighty machine. I reach the last waggon on one end and take a picture of the rails. Near the other end is the restaurant waggon, and the only person in there is the obese widely smiling unshaved man in blue. I approach him and he notices me. He begins to sum up what’s on the menu and before I know I’ve ordered borschscht. I like it, and I try to make friends by saying that I prefer the Ukrainian version which would work on the man since this is a Ukrainian train.
“Half-half” he explains. “Are you traveling alone?”
It’s a question that I’m asked very often in Russia, much more often than in South America. I nod and say something about spontaneous travel. The man interrupts me by waving around with his big hands and humming Mendelssohn’s wedding march. He stands up and embarks on a diverse musical journey.
“Louis Armstrong!” his hands mimic a trumpet, a wonderful world, summertime. He is almost dancing now, between the tables in the restaurant waggon and I look at him with surprise and a sense of joyful complicity. That man, doing that thing between cups of borschscht and unpolished silverwear on the train tables and old wooden crates full of cabbage and onions to be delivered somewhere along the way, he has filled the train with life and, after he gives me “five minutki” more to sit in his restauration waggon, sent back a fulfilled passenger to his bunk bed.
Two young women have entered the train. They wear big sunglasses that give them insect-like appearance. We have a short conversation in which one of the cute women tells me she has just bought twelve pairs of shoes in China and she wants a Dalmatian puppy.