VtM: Nosferatu – Barbara
I had success. I was top of my class at the NYU School of Journalism, one of the best journalism schools in the country. I had straight As. Graduated Magna Cum Laude. I had a contract set up with a major tabloid magazine by the end of my senior year of college. I had a job directly after graduation.
I was president of my sorority at NYU. I always knew who was who. If you ever needed to know what happened when, who said what, or what the people are talking about, you talked to Barbara. I knew who was dating who, who broke up with who and why, who was spreading rumors and what the rumors were. I wasn't a queen bee. I didn't trot around causing drama. No. I sat back and watched. Listened. And I. Heard. Everything.
Gossip was, and always has been, my forte. And the tabloids knew it. I was immediately sprung with a major contract. The publishing industry in New York City has always been booming. And I had gotten saddled with my dream job straight out of school!
It was perfect.
I have everything that I could ever want. I even had a few steady boyfriends throughout college. But one way or the other…they always left. Teenage years spent in foster care and all that. Bad depression. I was so consumed with people's darkest secrets that I safely guarded my own. Nights spent in hospital. Weekly checkups with psychiatrists.
Have the medicines been working, Barbara?
Reduced thoughts of self-harm? Less depression?
How have you been sleeping?
Same as always. I haven't been sleeping.
But I couldn't sleep when there were so many secrets to be heard. I knew deepest, darkest secrets. Secrets that could ruin people. And it fueled me. I was a monster who could destroy lives if I opened my mouth. I knew Jenny Constantino got knocked up the night of the winter formal. I knew that Patrick Lamar got arrested last week for shoplifting. I knew that Professor Kinsey had gotten fired because he was embezzling money—the school had tried to cover it up, but nothing can hide from me.
My brain chemistry doesn't allow me to be happy. Major Depressive Disorder they called it. They spoke to me like I was nothing. Like they didn't know what I was capable of.
Well I got the job at the tabloid, moved into a new apartment (a much nicer one than before—the new job paid well and I could actually afford to live in mid-town Manhattan). Things were going great. I woke up every morning knowing that I got to go to work and do what I do best.
Air everyone's dirty laundry. In print. For the whole world to see.
Information was the currency, and I was filthy rich.
So I sprung out of bed every single morning, swallowed four different psychoactive medicines (crazy pills, happy pills, whatever you want to call them) along with my breakfast, grabbed some coffee and was off to do my work.
Raises, promotions, everything came rolling in like the tide. Soon I was attending parties of the New York City elite, dressed in Chanel and Dior, mingling with the celebrities, taking interviews, and writing everything down. It was like living a dream. At work I was in an elated euphoria…and then I came home to dark grey pit of depression—and then the cycle would continue.
There had to be some way I could find balance.
"You need to lighten up a bit more," my friend Pam would tell me as she saw the dark circles under my eyes—something I always tried to hide with copious amounts of makeup. Another restless night without sleep.
"I can't," I would reply, trying not to think about the multitude of little orange bottles inside of my medicine cabinets. The voices of the doctors would echo in my head. It's biology, Barbara. Depression is just a flaw in biology.
"Sure you can," Pam would reply. "Say…I'm going out to a party this weekend. As long as you don't have too much work to do…do you want to come?"
"I spend most of my weekends at parties," I sighed. It was true. Except I was always reporting during them…never actually partaking in the excitement, food, drink, or dancing. I always sat back and saw what other people were doing—making sure I could then take careful notes.
"But not that kind of party where you're there for your job. Just…to let go." She suggested with a smile, making her dimple rather pronounced.
And I went.
And it was fun.
I was disoriented at first. Being there without having to watch and listen was…odd. But at the same time, it was nice.
But it was over too soon. I caught wind of a HUGE rumor concerning an actress overdosing at a party and having to be sent to the hospital. I searched the media. No one had reported on it, yet. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed New York Presbyterian hospital, where it was said she was taken shortly after the OD. A nurse picked up. I introduced myself and stated I was from the press before asking if said actress was currently being hospitalized. The answer was yes…but I could get no further details out of her.
That was all I needed.
The news was published in the gossip column that day.
When I broke the news that she had been hospitalized for a drug overdose at a party, people went berserk. More so than I thought would happen. Sponsors were dropping her. She was fired from a crew of a filming movie. Her world had completely fallen apart in under twenty-four hours.
And it was my fault.
I wasn't upset about it at first. Her downfall was my profit, and that's just how the world works, right? Cruel but true. I'm just a reporter who hears whispers on the wind—and I get paid for letting the cat out of the bag. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and if her career had to fall by the wayside because she did something stupid while out partying…I don't see why it should be any skin off my nose. Harsh, yes. But am I good at my job? Yes.
I returned to work the following day after the article was printed, shortly to be greeted by my editor. "Hey Cliff, what's the buzz?" I asked…as if I didn't already know what the day's buzz was.
"You mean you haven't heard?"
…was he implying there were things I didn't hear?
"Heard what?" I asked, humoring him.
"You might be getting sued for slander," Cliff replied. "Someone's a little miffed that you aired her dirty laundry about her overdose—which she is saying didn't happen, since you didn't have any access to her medical records. She's saying that she was hospitalized because of high blood pressure due to the stress of her job. But I don't believe a word of it.
"She'd better have a good lawyer!" I cackled. Cliff's eyes became wide, and his mouth became reduced to nothing but a thin line.
"She does," he said darkly. My face fell to match his.
"She's telling everyone you ruined her career."
"Her drugs ruined her career!" I shouted. "If she wanted to keep her career she shouldn't have picked up the heroin!"
Legal war was waged. My name was on the lips of everyone in the magazine industry. And not in the good way like it used to be. People were whispering. Snickering, even. And I had a lawsuit. I could lose my job.
Without my job…I would have nothing.
Just that big, dark pit of depression. I couldn't lose my job. Or I would end up back in hospital like I had been before. No. No, I wouldn't let that happen.
It was a Friday. Pam took me out to a party as per usual. This was the day I really needed a party. I was so sick and tired of the awfulness of work…
"Come here, Barbie. Try this."
It was the 80s. The economy was at an all-time high…and drugs were cheap, and easy to come by. Especially cocaine.
"Do a line. It'll change your life."
I didn't really want something to change my life…maybe just to let me forget the absolute hell I had been plunged into. Someone had separated the thick, white powder out into little lines on a tabletop using a credit card. The affluence was palpable. "Take the straw, and snuff it up your nose. Might sting, but just wait for the hit. It's like nothing you've ever felt."
Screw it. Screw it all.
I grabbed the straw.
"First hit?" Someone asked.
"Yeah…" I replied, suddenly feeling lightheaded.
"Give it a minute."
I didn't think it would have happened that fast. I was hit with nothing short of a wall of euphoria. And the next thing I knew I was in the streets, running with Pam, shouting dirty laundry through the streets.
"ANDREA WEXLER IS A LESBIAN! COURTNEY ROSE REALLY DID HAVE A DRUG OVERDOSE! SHE'S JUST MAD AT ME FOR SAYING IT TO THE PUBLIC!"
And the next thing I knew, I was falling. Splash…down into a sewer through an open manhole. Suddenly shocked back into reality, the high finally starting to wane, I couldn't see much. A horrible stench of trash and sewage surrounded me, but all I could see was blackness. I heard a man's grizzly voice, slippery and dark like slime: "Didn't you ever hear that loose lips might sink ships?"
I knew everything. I hear and hear everything. And that's why they said they had to do it. A short captivity while they waited for documentation from the Prince saying that I could be embraced…and then I was.
Ironically…I was the one pronounced dead of a drug overdose the next morning by Kine newspapers. The lawsuit against me was dropped. And then I doing what I do best. Being a broker of secrets. But this time…it wasn't for humans. I rose through the ranks quite quickly after that…
Still. Just as it always has been. And it always will be.
You wanna know something?
You ask Barbie.