Farzana Doctor's poignant Six Metres of Pavement brings together three very different Torontonians – a recently widowed woman struggling to come to terms with her new identity; a young queer activist thrown out by her parents; and a man whose tragic mistake years ago cost him just about everything – and unites them in their loneliness. In the complex weaving of their journeys, Doctor skillfully captures an essential quality of contemporary Toronto: a city of geographic, cultural, and emotional communities in constant flux. But it is in these spaces between – some perhaps just six metres wide – that the characters find renewed hope for love and acceptance.
Ismail Boxwala made the worst mistake of his life twenty years ago: he forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car. After her tragic death, he struggles to continue living. A divorce, years of heavy drinking, and sex with strangers only leave him feeling more alone. But Ismail’s story begins to change after he reluctantly befriends two women: Fatima, a young queer activist; and Celia, his grieving Portuguese-Canadian neighbour who lives just six metres away. A slow-simmering romance develops between Ismail and Celia. Meanwhile, dangers lead Fatima to his doorstep. Each makes complicated demands of him, ones he is uncertain he can meet.
Photo credit – Vivak Shraya
Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author. Her first novel, Stealing Nasreen, received critical acclaim and earned a devoted readership upon its release in 2007. Her second book, Six Metres of Pavement, was praised by Publishers Weekly as “..a paean to second chances” and was named one of Now Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2011. It also won the Lambda Literary and Rainbow Awards (2012). Farzana was named as one of CBC Books’ “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now” and was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant (2011). Her books have been published in North America and India.
Excerpt from Six Metres of Pavement
ISMAIL SAW LYDIA’S MOTHER again, a week after he caught her looking at him from her window. He was on the front porch wearing only a bathrobe, the late autumn winds lapping at his bare legs. He was searching for his Toronto Star, which the delivery guy invariably tossed anywhere but within easy reach from his door. Finally, Ismail discovered it wedged precariously between two porch steps, threatening to fall beneath. He reached down with both hands and yanked the heavy roll out from between the steps.
Unfortunately, the effort left him unarmed against a sudden gust of wind that lifted his terry-cloth robe high above his skinny, goose-pimpled thighs. He pulled the thin fabric around himself with one hand, held onto his beloved paper with the other, and rushed back into the house like a self-conscious schoolgirl. Before closing the screen door, he scanned the street to check that no one had witnessed the spectacle. And there she was, peering at him through the clear glass of the living room window. After their encounter
the previous week, Ismail wasn’t terribly surprised to see her there. Their eyes met for a moment, and then his peep-show audience let the curtain fall from her fingers and she disappeared from sight.
Ismail mused about what the widow had seen in the immodest moment before he’d run back inside. Studying himself in the hallway mirror, he imagined himself a brown, male, middle-aged Marilyn Monroe caught over the gusts of a sewer grate. Did the lady notice his knocked knees, veiny legs?