I dressed up for work because I was going to a play that evening. My office mate who always looks professional noticed. “That blue compliments your eyes,” she said of my navy blue pants. Usually I wear leggings and sweatshirts to work. My pink hoodie is my favorite. I was devastated when I noticed black bird poop on the sleeve and back and hood. When I tried to wash it out with soap the spots turned purple. I thought it was a goner. But I tried my father’s trick. I poured detergent on the spots and let the hoodie soak overnight. Unbelievably the hoodie washed clean in the morning. My other office mate who is a poet like me often tells me she dreads ever looking for another job. She doesn’t want to dress up. I chuckle in my pink hoodie, still intact.
I used to work until the middle of the night plugging data into a spreadsheet, analyzing the data, and writing articles based on the results. My journalism colleague always left at a reasonable hour and he once gave me advice. “Just make up the numbers!” He had an affinity for fiction, as an English major at my alma mater. I had wanted to study English, too, but my mother vetoed English as impractical so I studied International Relations and Economics instead. I always envied English majors until I realized we might end up in the exact same place.
I never cheat at Wordle or the Spelling Bee—New York Times word games that I play on my iPhone every morning. I like to share my legit ups and downs with my brother in law, who excels at these games. But I sometimes google crossword clues—like the many obscure pop culture references—when I play the Times’ Mini Crossword. I also google word scrambles to solve problem words on WordScapes, an app on my iPhone. I never share my illegitimate wins at these games. Cheating is my dirty little secret, a harmless crime that keeps things fun.
Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Walking A&P and Black Elephants and three poetry chapbooks. Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her poem “This New Manhattan” was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize.