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.
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.
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.