I had a short story published recently in Storgy magazine. It’s available to read free online, so do check it out if you’re interested. It’s about two women caught on opposite sides of a militarised border wall: one in Europe, one in Africa. They develop a tentative friendship that is soon put to the test by the harsher realities of the refugee life.

The story was inspired by my visit a few years ago to Ceuta in north Africa, a Spanish city perched on the Moroccan coast. After three months driving around Morocco, it felt so strange to cross into this space that was geographically in Africa but politically in Europe. I was reminded of my passport privilege as I drove easily across a border that others die trying to breach.

I spent a long afternoon standing at the border wall shown in the photo below. The buildings on the left, where I am standing, are in Europe; the hills on the right are in Africa. The border fences don’t look that big in the photo because of the perspective, but they’re high enough and sharp enough if you’re looking up at them from the Moroccan side. And this photo is a few years old, so they’re probably higher and sharper now, because that’s what we do.

Ceuta wall

Just beyond the wall was a Moroccan village, so close that I could hear the people talking, the chickens clucking, the mopeds revving to and fro. A man next to us, on the Spanish side, appeared at one point and started calling out in Arabic to his family on the Moroccan side.

Morocco seen from Ceuta

It was a scene of such peace and beauty, and at the same time it was a microcosm of the massive inequalities and injustices on which our world is built. Ceuta was just a brief overnight stop before hopping on the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to mainland Spain (another impossible dream for those with the ‘wrong’ passports), and yet the place haunted me.

I wrote a little bit about it in a blog post on the violence of borders, but that didn’t feel like enough. Then, much later, I had the idea of letting two characters meet from opposite sides of the fence, calling out to each other as the man had done with his family on that soft, peaceful afternoon in 2017. The result is this story, which I hope you enjoy.

9 Comments

  1. BuriedInPrint 12 June 2021 at 9:21 pm

    ooOooOoo Congratulations. I’ve saved the link to read in my next screen session (I have to limit my screen hours and am trying to catch up with blogs today).

    I just finished Emmanuel Mboulela’s memoir Refugee; his language is so direct and clear that it only intensifies the urgency of the situation.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 14 June 2021 at 7:51 pm

      Ah, I should limit my screen hours too! Any tips on how to accomplish it? Thanks for dropping another book onto my TBR list in the time you did have, anyway 🙂

      Reply
  2. Stefanie 18 June 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Congratulations on the new story!

    Reply
  3. PeachyTO 25 June 2021 at 9:29 pm

    Gorgeous photos, Andrew! I’m off to read your story, and looking forward to it.

    Reply
    1. PeachyTO 25 June 2021 at 10:21 pm

      That was excellent. My senses were alight throughout. The imagery was captivating, the characters endearing, and it was an affecting story. I’m not someone who reads a lot of short stories as they often make me feel stupid, haha. I usually finish a little dazed and wondering what all I must have missed to end up so lost. After playing out this scenario a few times I just stopped reading them. Your story had me engulfed from the start and thinking by the end; feeling reflective instead of bewildered. Love the Golden Girls reference too!

      Reply
      1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 27 June 2021 at 7:57 am

        Thank you so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for taking the time to come and post this comment. One of the hardest things about writing, I find, is overcoming that sense that I’m not good enough, that my stories are not worthy of being sent out into the world. Comments like this help a lot!

        Reply
  4. PeachyTO 28 June 2021 at 5:00 am

    I hear you, writing can be a vulnerable place. All kinds of artists feel this way, I think. You’re welcome, it was great!

    Reply

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