Fasting for your motherland

Saratov train station, second day of my train trip from Moscow to Makhachkala (Daghestan).

A skinny middle-aged man dressed in a black leather jacket enters my compartment. A quarter of an hour later, a corpulent woman bursts in, panting. “Oh my goodness, I almost missed it! And the ticket was so expensive!” The train takes off, and my new mates wait in anticipation for the carriage attendant (known as provadnitsa in Russia) to bring them a clean bedding set. The woman pulls some clothes out of her suitcase and kindly asks the man to step outside for a minute. I make a move to leave, but the woman, somehow startled, says or rather orders, “No, why, you stay.” I sit down feeling uptight as I watch her undress. She takes off her pearl necklace, then her white, perfectly ironed blouse. She asks me to help her unzip her bra. “My name is Tatiana, by the way.” She puts on a white T-shirt with a butterfly pattern in silver studs, then pulls up pinkish sweatpants over her tan tights. When her outside-world-clothes are neatly hung, she opens the door. “We're done,” she says to the man looking out the window, making sure he hears her. It is now his turn to conform to the Russian-train-dress-code. From behind the door I hear the muted sounds of his belt being unfastened.

June 24, 2016 - Iwona Kaliszewska