To celebrate the accolades that Nowhere Magazine and writer Frank Bures earned for “The Crossing” from Issue 6, we are publishing the essay in its entirety here. To read more about the award and the judges’ comments on his piece, continue reading below.
Words of praise from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation for “The Crossing” by Frank Bures from Nowhere Issue 6:
What a superb opening to a story about a subject most (if not all) of its readers have never heard of.
Standing on the edge of the Red Sea 60,000 years ago, the first people looked across the water, saw mountains rising above the horizon, and decided to go there. No one knows how they crossed the water, but they did. Somehow, this small band of as few as 150 individuals made their way from Africa to Arabia — from what is now the tiny country of Djibouti on one side to the troubled nation of Yemen on the other. After that, they kept going. They followed the shorelines. They went inland. They scaled mountains and crossed plains. They spread out into the world until they filled every corner of it.
They, of course, were us.
Bab al Mandeb is thought to be the place they crossed. It is the ‘Gate of Tears,’ where the Red Sea narrows and powerful ocean currents have sunk countless ships over the ages.
While the writer has no explanation for how they crossed, he does note that the level of the Red Sea was lower then, which may be the explanation, or at least part of it. And in painting the picture today, he dips his pen into that pot of good writing again:
Today the islands are submerged and the ends of the strait reach out to each other like a continental version of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Man.”
It is appropriate to give this much space and background to this far-off dot on the map because it becomes the writer’s destination. A few years ago, he noticed the announcement of the intention to build a bridge there, a massive project aimed to span the Red Sea — a bridge that would be 18 miles long.
Never forgetting that, and having what the writer confesses is a restless side, he was off more recently to the land of Djibouti to see how it was going. Not well. And he’s into current history as well as the past, all with nice detail and descriptions. Finding the Djibouti Kempinski Palace Resort, the country’s first five-star hotel, he draws the contrast between its lobby and the country.
I climbed through a wormhole into another out [of the van], walked across the grounds and went through the front door. It was like passing dimension. One minute I was in a blazing hot, corrupt, miserable dump of a country. The next I could hear violins and the trickle of a waterfall, and my body was in shock from the cold. There were marble floors, ornately carved chairs, colorful stained glass lamps.
But he presses on, although with the turbulence of the fighting in the area, he never reaches Bab al Mandeb. He does get close, making it to a lighthouse he first sees in the distance. A soldier there lets him climb to the top and points out Yemen to the East, Djibouti to the south, Eritrea to the north — and Bab al Mandeb, far off, “where the sea and land faded into the haze.”
I looked to where he was pointing and squinted into the sun. I was sure I could almost see it.
That is not only a nice description but a superb example of evoking the beginning of a story as it is concluded. The writer has taken the reader on a journey to a remote land and wrapped it up as smoothly as it can be done.
In life, it’s called “closure.”