Barbiturate Barbie

Pills to wake and pills to sleep, she thought, languidly laughing to herself. She reckoned it was out loud, that surely she must be making an uproarious sound for as much as that mantra made her giggle, but one glimpse of herself in the mirror told her that her expression was blank, an unblemished canvas waiting to be directed by someone who could pull her out of her barbiturate fog.

Oh but the fog was so thick by now, and she knew that she couldn’t cut through it, let alone see past it any longer. She was firmly on the other side and it felt easier than the cognizance that still remained behind the curtain of dazedness she had fortified for herself thanks to all the good doctors’ prescriptions. Sure, sometimes they had their drawbacks, like an unwanted encounter with Judy Garland in her various nightmares. Garland delivered the warning, “Somewhere over the barbiturate haze, there lies death” in that damned eerie a capella tone of hers. Always showing off, as though Marilyn wasn’t a much better singer by sheer virtue of her sultrier tone alone. But she endured Judy, let her have her little dream sequence visitations as a means to try to warn Marilyn of her inevitable demise if she kept suckin’ on them Seconals like Werther’s. The nerve of that child star, Marilyn seethed. Plus, she was the one who lived longer while supporting her habit. And her death from a Seconal overdose felt a bit hypocritical when Marilyn first learned about it in the purgatory called watching every actress and singer try to replicate her since her own death in ’62. It was bad enough to see Madonna impersonating her in the “Material Girl” video and then fuck John Jr., but when Lindsay Lohan tried to pose as her on multiple occasions, it was enough to make her want to die all over again. But she couldn’t. All she could do was keep taking the sleeping pills. It would knock her out long enough to ignore that she was forced to watch life go on without her.

Worst of all, she had to see Arthur move on to that Austrian-American sphinx Inge Morath. The fucking nerve. She had been the photographer documenting the making of The Misfits–which added an extra layer of traitorousness to his marriage to her as far as Marilyn was concerned. She could have even forgiven him for releasing After the Fall when her corpse was still barely cold. But to have moved on to someone else with such rapidity was what hurt more. Maybe that’s why the universe saw fit to bequeath one of his new children–since Marilyn herself could never give him any–with Down syndrome. Marilyn would have loved that child regardless, but instead, Inge let him put the boy in an institution, rarely if ever acknowledging him. Had she been so drowned in the clouded judgment of her barbiturates that she couldn’t see Arthur for what he truly was? A pseudo-intellectual prick constantly overcompensating for being Jewish? To think, she even converted for him though it meant having all of her movies banned in Egypt. She liked Egypt, but would she ever be able to go now? Certainly not. Not even in her celestial and spectral incarnation of the present.

But where are those damned pills now? I must take them to think, and to not think. To be dead while still alive. Didn’t they understand that while I was still in their realm? That the pills fed me in more ways than one. They allowed me to maintain my soul by putting it on ice while I did soulless things. I guess I just forgot to take it out of the ice chest every once and a while. It’s so hard to be an actress, to temper all of the personalities you’re playing with whatever is left of your real one. Especially when you have someone as terrifying as Joan Crawford harassing you at every turn, making you feel inadequate and inferior as she calls you cheap and no good and an insult to what the industry once used to stand for.

Joan was patently jealous, of course. It didn’t take a psychology major to see that. Marilyn knew somewhere in the back of her mind that Joan was partially the inspiration for “subconsciously” choosing to punch her ticket out of Hollywood early. She didn’t ever want to be that old or in denial. She would say this for Joan: she could hold her liquor. Feasting on a diet of vodka out of a Pepsi bottle most days would not be enough for Marilyn’s coping needs though. Alcohol on its own was not strong enough to keep her demons at bay. To play the sex kitten they had molded her into. As though she was responsible for having that figure and driving men crazy with it therefore ought to be nailed up and crucified until there was nothing left of her corporeal self.

To be rid of the physical being that was both her blessing and her curse, barbiturates were an essential. Made her feel detached, as though floating on air above herself as she watched that other Marilyn dance and perform for the camera. The Barbiturate Barbie that allowed Norma Jeane to flutter away and experience life at a purer level. One that existed atop the Hollywood sign, soaring as high as the clouds at times when Marilyn popped enough of her “prescribed” medicine.

Norma Jeane became increasingly vexed when Marilyn managed to make her come back down. Back to that depressing bedroom in Brentwood where hardly anyone ever seemed to visit except her therapist and the hired help. At least there was Maf, the white terrier Sinatra had given her and that she had decided to call Maf as a tongue-in-cheek homage to Frank’s supposed ties to the mafia. Yet even Maf looked depressed and lonely roaming aimlessly among that Spanish-inspired decor. If Maf couldn’t stand to be around Marilyn, how could Norma Jeane?

So it was that one day, Norma Jeane finally decided she wasn’t coming back to resuscitate her Barbiturate Barbie self. She would rather stay afloat, away from the husk that was always bumming her out. What she failed to realize in not returning was that it meant Marilyn was coming up above, to join her in an eternal union between the body and the mind at last. That’s when Norma Jeane decided she ought to ask God, played by Louis B. Mayer (as Darryl Zanuck was playing Satan down below), for a separate supply of barbiturates of her own. Because Marilyn was bogarting it all, obviously. Could the two selves learn to coexist collaboratively? Of course, assured Norma Jeane, provided she could white herself out with just as much ease as Marilyn did with those beauteous Bs. It was this they could agree upon with one another. That and, of course, that Jackie was a frigid bitch.

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