SHORT STORIES AND NOVEL EXCERPTS
Digging Through the Fat with Gessy Alvarez, storyteller podcast, June 2019
Short of shoes, the Judge was fully dressed when he stood in front of the full-length mirror fixing his bow tie and thanking his colleagues on the Supreme Court, the line still not one to roll off his tongue. Then Elaine barged through the door, grabbed his hand and led him out of the carpeted room, down the wood-paneled hallway and across the marble foyer where the pianist played lounge jazz and the guests whispered: Have you seen? Was this…? Without shoes!
DOVES ON TRAFALGAR SQUARE
I was standing in front of the Bodleian Library when she trotted down the stairs of the Radcliffe Camera, brown leather bag hanging on her shoulder, a stack of paper under her arm. She was wearing a camel wool coat that reached to an inch above her ankles, exposing green sneakers with yellow laces, and a trim of gym socks. The mismatch of seasons between the coat and the shoes was so striking, I almost didn’t notice her perfectly straight hair with the fringe cut evenly along the midline of her forehead. She walked quickly, with a sense of purpose, now holding the papers against her chest, her frame slightly bent forward, protective of the notes, ready to confront the obstacles head-first. Suddenly she tripped, and all those pages whirled in the air like a flock of doves circling over Trafalgar Square.
TRANSITION, Summer 2014
It got warmer on the morning of New Year’s Eve. The snowfall turned into rain, and the snow that was already on the ground started flowing down the street. She lay in bed counting raindrops thumping against the roof, watching them chase one another on the windowpane, thinking that later that day the temperature would be back below zero, and the roads and rails would glaze with ice, closing them to traffic. Her plan for the day? Making it a good one. She hated New Year’s Eve. That and Valentine’s Day, too. Two holidays enforced on humanity by the marketing wizards, creating expectations of fun and romance. But this year she couldn’t boycott the celebrations by watching firework displays from in front of her house, wearing sweatpants and slippers, scolding the pathetic masses of people who spent outrageous amounts of money on attending balls and banquets. No, this year she had to have her own little charade, and she had to make it a memorable one.
JENNY SOUNDS LIKE A GIRL WHO'S FUN
Cadaverine, June 2013
She ran into a drugstore in search of permanent hair dye but they only had washable and the realization that she couldn't get what she needed felt like a punch to the stomach. She grabbed two packs of chocolate brown just to stop herself from puking in the hair care aisle. She could leave, walk around, find the right product, but that would require time and expose her to others. Her hair – her hair! – people would notice her hair. They would stare, point, whisper. She hated her red waves. The hair that captured everybody's attention that made everyone look at her, talk about her, remember her. The hair that made her 'that girl' – the girl that was not sufficiently common to pass unnoticed, but also not extraordinary enough to be singled out and treasured. She wanted to blend in. She wanted to be invisible in the crowd; to be a part of the grey-blond-faded-brown culture that streamed around her every day. She walked toward the cashier, and avoiding eye contact, threw the boxes on the counter, waited for the scanning noise – beep – beep – threw down a fifty-euro banknote and ran out of the store without waiting for the change. [pdf]
PYJAMAS AND BATHROBES
Hospital Drive, Winter 2013
Francis was sitting in the back seat of her father’s car, staring herself in the eye in the rearview mirror. She rested her left hand on the bag that lay next to her, filled with clothes and books, and put her right hand on Mr. Penguin’s belly. If there was a time and a place for a twenty-year-old to be seen with her favorite childhood toy, it was during a ride to a hospital.
‘You shouldn’t have taken all that stuff. They won’t let you keep it anyway,’ Mrs. Rutherford said. ‘Are you sure you want to go through with this? You can still change your mind.’
PATIENT HISTORY: ABRIDGED
Examined Life Journal, Fall 2012
The ER of a psychiatric hospital doesn’t have the sterile smell of a regular hospital. It smells of dust and urine. It’s not hectic or spacious, like the ERs you see on TV. It’s small, intimate. There is a bench, screwed to the wall, and I sit down on it while my parents give a nurse my name, date of birth, address and insurance number. Tears stream down my face. I curl myself up and bite my lips until they bleed. The insides of my cheeks are lacerated. Time stretches and circles and suddenly comes to a halt. It makes me nauseous. I am confused, paralyzed. Taking a bus, brushing teeth or having a conversation is like running a marathon. For months, I’ve slept but I haven’t rested. I crumble under rage when I look at the piano. I wonder, how could anyone ever think that depression sparks creativity?
Zuzanna shows mastery of craft. She has a great deal of control over pacing and uses just the right number of words. I've been enjoying her distinct blend of sad love stories since 2012. I can't wait to read more of her stories even though I hardly read any fiction nowadays.