It is not “done” anymore. Heroin, that is. It no longer holds the glitz and the glamor of a more expensive, more vanilla option, like barbiturates and pain killers in pill form. But it is done, by those still willing to uphold a rock n’ roll sensibility in the style of Brett Anderson, Courtney Love…or Philip Seymour Hoffman. There are so few people willing to surrender to their self-destructiveness in a truly meaningful and committed way. It’s all so casual. Like, “Yeah, I’m spending too much money.” Big fucking deal, who isn’t? To live at all is to spend too much money. What Lizzy was thinking to herself, of course, is that it was hard to come across a person, least of all a woman, that surrendered herself fully to the non-cause of self-immolation. That’s what it was, in the end, to take heroin. At least as far as a girl named Demetria was concerned.
Before it was heroin, it was cocaine. She smuggled it with her everywhere. On planes, in clubs. It was the social crutch she needed to get through the unheard of pressures of fame at a young age. A time when all one really wanted was the luxury of fucking up without scrutiny. Demetria did not have that. But what she did have, as Madonna would call it, was “a lot of available drugs” to aid her through the tradeoff of making money for her talent for the price of living in a fishbowl. Lizzy laughed to herself, thinking how people, commoners, really couldn’t possibly understand that it almost wasn’t worth it to be renowned at all when there were constant presences invading any place you might have once called safe. Even the fucking beach (provided there were no tsunamis). She could see this franticness in Demetria’s eyes when they first met–were first thrown together for a photo opportunity due to the bizarre circumstances of fame. Well, a franticness that was paired with a certain glazed over, lost in the abyss expression.
When Lizzy thought about it, maybe “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground was a song she could never understand unless she herself shot up. She had always been tempted to when she was dating the boy who had inspired the vast majority of her songs. The troubled youth who, though helpful to others, could never be helpful to himself. When she caught Demetria in the bathroom of Wembley during the EMAs with the door to the stall completely ajar as she sat there looking as though she was in mid-orgasm, Lizzy could hear the words echo back to her from one of Demetria’s more dissected interviews, “I guess I always searched for what he found in drugs and alcohol because it fulfilled him, and he chose that over a family.” Daddy fucked her up real good. Another way in which Lizzy was only a faux tortured soul; her Daddy stuck around, helped pay for her career. What excuse did she have to write about things she didn’t really know anything of?
When Lizzy thought about it, Demetria had been there all along as her muse. The girl who dared to be what she could only sing about. Sure, she had been addicted to alcohol in her own adolescence, but never anything more than that. Never anything that she thought, in the end, would genuinely sanction her as one of the legends she idolized, a Winehouse or a Morrison. Lizzy felt like a fraud when she narrated, “Live fast, die young,” whereas Demetria was truly willing to do so, admitting in that natural rhyming singer-songwriter way, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” But she did. Barely.
All it took was an everyday struggle against everything she desired, the only thing she really wanted to do more than sing: drugs. More, more, more. More in quantity, more in danger. She was the “Fine China” Lizzy might have sung about while watching her in the spotlight pre-2012 (the year Lizzy finally struck in big), all the while focused in her quest for china white. Unafraid of naming songs in the same way as others before her, Demetria confessed to her relapsing sins on “Sober” in a more tragic way than Ella on her version of “Sober” from Melodrama the year prior. Apologizing in antithesis to the way she once claimed, “Sorry Not Sorry,” Demetria’s cry for help went unanswered after she confessed, “Mama, I’m so sorry I’m not sober anymore.” But Lizzy heard the plea in her voice, could tell that something awful was to come. That tinge of desperation in her vocals filled with demons of ill portent. It made her revisit a few of the songs that had taught her everything she knew about drug use, other than her immortalized ex, who might have died from his one true love by now for all she knew.
Switching from The Velvet Underground to Suede, the two most important authorities on heroin as far as Lizzy was concerned, she heard the news trickle in from the other room, where her manager was watching TMZ. It was his guilty pleasure, his way of staying in the world and of the world. Unfortunately, it meant Lizzy was forced to do the same when all she wanted was to remain in her bubble of 60s-inspired nostalgia. Minus the aspect of it where she actually dabbled in the drugs of her idols.
Demetria had said, “I wanna be a role model but I’m only human.” Lizzy truly wanted to be a role model, inhuman. A goddess and a talisman to her fans. But how could she be when she was a sober hypocrite singing about flying to the moon again, dreaming about heroin?
Lou Reed understood, was able to explain that nothing else mattered other than the junk when he said, “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life.” Lizzy, once again, felt like a fraud, herself never having taken heroin to fully grasp what she was talking about when she said, “Flying to the moon again, dreaming about heroin.” But she was dreaming about it, all the time now. Conceptually. How it could be used in her work without being used in her life other than by those who orbited her periphery. Wasn’t it enough, if you were a truly good storyteller, to be able to re-create what you saw without experiencing it for yourself? Lizzy had thought so for a while, but now she didn’t know, could barely get the words out when she started to experiment with new lyrics. So she called Demetria, roughly two weeks after the “incident,” when she was somewhat coherent and vulnerable enough to answer some questions and accept an offer.
At the Sziget Festival in August, Lizzy sang “Heroin” for the first time in its entirety on tour, bringing out Demetria to join her. She looked good, the kind of heroin chic that the 90s made us all romanticize. Certainly not as thin as Kate Moss, but thin enough. Definitely thinner than Dizzy Miss Lizzy. Despite her body self-consciousness, with Demetria at her side, Lizzy felt legitimized, “allowed” to sing about heroin at last–yet it still wasn’t enough. When the performance was over, she met Demetria backstage in her dressing room, at it again with the needle. She didn’t care. She was a pop star like no other. The kind that wasn’t too dainty for heroin like Taylor nor trashy enough for crystal meth like Britney.
Lizzy took a deep breath. This was her moment of truth, the moment when she would decide if she was going to become the real deal or just another imposteur of the music industry, speaking of that which she knew nothing about. She took a deep breath. For Amy and for Whitney, and all my birds of paradise, she thought to herself as she sidled up to Demetria to join in on this puncturing of the skin and the soul. “Boy, you’re so dope,” had taken on more real and abstract meaning all at once.