dumb little tourist

Lyz Mancini

Co-Star said that today I was a “constellation of sadness,” and it’s an annoyingly well written sentiment but it was true. I was pin pricks of dimming light strewn about the wet streets of Brooklyn, paying a cab driver to drive me past all the places I’d left six months ago—Depressed Girl Tourism or Nostalgia Porn was what I called it in my head, when you lean into the darkness when you could easily choose to just… not do that. When you visit places and thought patterns and thick silences and blinding neon signs that you’d intentionally left behind because sometimes places are no longer for you. 

I sunk into my leopard coat, let the heat dry my eyes, and asked the cab driver to start in Greenpoint, choosing a destination I knew would wind me through every place I wanted to look at. I indulgently put on M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” I saw the stoop where I left my first pair of Frye boots—months of tips and half-bowls of cereal, only to forget them as I scrounged for my keys. They were stolen in seconds, and so I just started over again until I could buy another pair. I still have them. We drove by the record store I cried in on my first Sunday in the city because I had no friends and didn’t even own a record player and just an apartment where I’d hide in the closet while the Russian landlord came to collect rent and the guy I shared a wall with had a raging coke problem. And a rage problem. 

I broke my wrist in Bushwick—that’s a lovely alliteration. I didn’t live in the infamous McKibbin lofts, but I might as well have. Ripping my stockings ten seconds before midnight, only noticing the black knob that blossomed beneath my thumb the next morning, after a club that pretended to be a hotel and a kid I refused to kiss. The sweet Russian lady who wrapped my wrist in the bodega and placed two Advil into my palm because I didn’t have health insurance. 

We passed the stoop I sobbed on when my mom called to tell me to get on a plane because my sister overdosed. Again. 

As the walls of brick and twinkle lights sped by, I could see Williamsburg bridge—where I’d walked countless times at unsafe hours, crystallized with sweat and pizza flour after a shift, clutching an Orangina for now and a beer for later. The bridge I walked with four so-cute Canadian guys once—we’d watched the sun rise from my roof and then I panic-told my work I’d gotten food poisoning from an avocado burrito. 

We drove by Aisha’s apartment, the one with the circle window I would always climb inside. She’s gone now—jumped off the 33rd floor of an Upper East Side building after a too long bout with insomnia. We passed the place I shared with Sophie—where we painted the walls drunk then got high off the turpentine fumes the next day when we awoke to the mess. Where we adopted a kitten from my high school prom date, randomly. She’s pregnant again, Sophie. We passed the L train entrance I’d take when I’d head up to Washington Heights—the boy who chivalrously always stood on the outside of the sidewalk but refused to wear a condom. “I promise I won’t get you pregnant,” he’d say, trying to pinky-swear me. He’s blocked now. 

I switched to early Gaga when we got to Fort Greene, the place I try to forget because this was where I lived when my dad got sick. I started to grow up here, began taking a man seriously. Where we ate dinner next to James Franco in an Italian restaurant and then we said “I love you” for the first time. To each other. Not to James Franco. Then my dad died and this place became blurry and where I became fatherless and I moved in with Lauren because I didn’t want to be alone but also wasn’t ready to live with a boy. 

 Crown Heights was where I regressed a little, drank a lot, and remembered body glitter. I scanned the rooftops I’d stare over into the unclear air and cement, bleary-eyed and cocktail-toasted. Then I moved a block away into a studio that was all mine—the kitchen window looked out onto a back alley where I’d imagine leering faces. Where friends could call my name from the street and I’d answer from the bathtub. I was steps away from Catfish, a New Orleans bar where I’d go and play cards with bartenders until 4 a.m. This was where I started writing again, a little. 

We drove through Kensington, a place in Brooklyn people rarely speak of—where the boy and I moved in together and I struggled finding myself inside the already-decorated walls. We lived at least three different relationships—breakfast sandwiches and sex and couples therapy and the break-up that lasted six hours though we never left the same bed. The secret strip club that moved locations and when mine and Sophie’s cat became our cat. 

I started playing Talking Heads as the cab driver got to Carroll Gardens where we got married—the ivy-twined brewery where we screamed Limp Bizkit to each other as our last song and I wore hair that reached my waist. Where I felt my dad’s presence and only one sister came because the other was missing. Where my mom and I danced to Janis Joplin. 

I wasn’t about to tell the driver to take me to Jersey City, which was where we lived last before leaving the city forever. Where you told me for the millionth time you hated it here—that you’d always stayed for me. You can break your own heart sometimes, and last year I made the final crack—this place was no longer for me. 

You can’t see it from Brooklyn, but the highway was somewhere out there—the one we drove two hours down with all our belongings and that cat, up into the mountains and acres of land. Where no Seamless driver would go to, where no one would steal leather boots from a doorway. Instead of wandering the streets staring into the golden glow of apartments now, I watch the way a sun fire fox prances across the crystal calmness of snow. I write books in a room that’s all mine and have conversations about ladybug season. I drive through drive-thrus now when I forget about dinner, panic-ordering Taco Bell because it’s a language I haven’t learned yet. Meander through TJ Maxx alone, buying way too many caftans. 

My cheeks are wet despite the heat blowing from the front seat, and we’ve reached my destination. I see kids stumbling against brick buildings, their faces dizzy and drunk and lit by neon signs—all having slightly varied experiences that are also all the time, that someday they’ll also see they’ve outgrown. I wonder how you can hold both a warm happiness and a slick sad longing in your heart at the same time. 

Dumb little tourist, I thought to myself. You’re a constellation of something.

Lyz Mancini is a writer living in Catskill, NY. She is a beauty copywriter for brands like MAC Cosmetics and Clinique, and her writing has appeared in Slate, Catapult, Salty, HerStry, Shortwave Magazine, Vautrin, Witches Magazine, and more. She is a Tin House Winter Workshop and Pitch Wars alum and was nominated for a 2022 Pushcart Prize.