I needed a car for my new job as managing editor of a weekly newspaper covering murders, drugs, schools, and communities in the Bronx. My father suggested my granny’s 1968 Dodge Coronet, a long white boat of a car that she no longer used. He drove it back from Nebraska and handed it over to me. It was the early 1990s and I was newly separated and living in a studio apartment in wealthy Larchmont, not far from the Bronx. I took over renting the apartment from my college best friend who moved back to Manhattan. I parked in the public spaces on the street but police marked my tires and ticketed me if I stayed too long. I paid hundreds in fines while living there. The police seemed especially aggressive in Larchmont, as if trying to prevent crime from the nearby Bronx from spilling over. You couldn’t even go to the beach without a local resident permit. To do my job as a reporter, I tried to blend in with a baseball cap, long ponytail, and cigarette smoking. The cigarettes dulled the stress from covering gang attacks, shootings, and rapes. I was very thin but I regularly ordered a Quarter Pounder with cheese from the McDonald’s drive-through. The brown paper bags filled up in my car. One night, on my way back from reporting in the Bronx, the police pulled me over, not far from my apartment. The officer asked for my license and registration but never explained why I was stopped. I read that police must suspect that a crime is being committed or going to be committed to stop you. My vintage Dodge Coronet heading into upscale Larchmont must have set off alarms. But the officers let me go on home. The transmission died a few months later. I got an almost new Mercury Sable and the Larchmont police never bothered me again.
©2022 Karol Nielsen
All rights reserved
…is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was longlisted for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award in 2021 and was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. One of her poems was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere.