The body is a damn hard thing to kill.
~Anne Sexton, “The Break”~
Britney inhales and her lungs fill with smoke, and she thinks of cancer and smiles. The cigarette in her hand feels solid, heavier than anything she’s been able to hold in awhile. Everything has felt insubstantial lately, like she’s drifting from this photo shoot to that morning talk show to home to here. The balcony of her hotel room, and she knows that there are fucking vultures in the trees, but she doesn’t feel like going inside. PR might get on her ass, but really, she can’t bring herself to care anymore.
She wants people to know.
Smoking is just self-destruction it its more obvious form. Drinking didn’t do anything but give her a headache and make her act stupid for the tabloids, and she keeps bleaching her hair but her body is more resiliant than it looks. It won’t just fall out like Mama’s been warning her it would, and even if it did, it would just be a series of blonde wigs for her and fear in the hearts of her fans: chemo or AIDs or something worse, and she doesn’t want to fake it.
She tried tanning, beach after beach after beach, hoping that the sun would catch just one of her moles (Mama calls them “beauty marks”) and hold on tight. Now she’s as brown and dry as a piece of leather, but her doctors say that she’s healthy as a horse, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
She’s stopped searching her breasts fearfully for lumps. She’s started eating red meat again.
If she was braver she’d just do it the fast way, a fistful of pills or slashed wrists or even any of the drugs she knows she could get her hands on, easy. Heroin or coke or just whatever some fuckwad in a club happened to hand her. But she doesn’t want to go out that way, the stupid way. She doesn’t want to be just another sad cover story for People magazine, one of the Heathers made meaningful through the filter of death. She’s not Kurt Cobain, and even if she did it just the way he did, she wouldn’t be a hero—people would just say that she hated herself as much as the thinking world did.
Besides, none of it is foolproof, and if she fucked that up just like she did everything else, she’d end up in some expensive looney bin, and then back outside doped up on Prozac and shoved in front of the cameras to talk about how “recovered” she was.
Smoking is better. She can feel it, thick grey smoke blackening her lungs, coating her throat, turning her fingernails yellow, and its like being invaded by some foreign entity. Besides, she likes the taste of it, the smell of it. Its just another tiny safe rebellion like her tattoo and her piercing and her underage drinking, but its good, its hers. People can try to take it away from her but she’s twenty years old, plenty mature enough to make her own decisions, and if she wants to ruin her voice with smoke and booze, she’s allowed.
Mama asks her sometimes if she’s trying to kill herself slowly, with cigarettes and booze, and she says no but thinks, No, Mama. Not slowly. Just not as fast as I’d like.