Substitute for Mother


The only really bad thing about hanging out with Yasmin is that she is good friends with Kathleen Rixon, who seems to be at the flat all the time. She totally rubs me up the wrong way. We are kind of friends, and she knows a lot of important people in the art scene, so I have to be polite to her. I remember this conversation with her, about six months before Katy died. We were sitting at Yasmin’s drinking wine and waiting for chinese food to arrive. The girls order all this food, then eat like one spring roll each.

“I saw your friend the other day, that English girl, but I totally forgot her name,” said Kathleen,

“Oh, you mean Katy Charleston, I’ve not seen her much recently, I hope she’s not fallen out with me,” I said,

“She was in Bergdorf’s buying opaque tights, I said – that’s a weird thing to be buying in the middle of summer, she said it was for the actress on the movie,” replied Kathleen, pouring more wine. Katy was supposed to be the wardrobe mistress, but she was actually more of a glorified runner.

“Maybe she’s just busy on the movie, maybe that’s why she’s blanking me,” I said. I knew that Katy had deadlines, and she had to complete the movie project in order to get her MA, so I was trying to not take it personally. But then we’re all busy, and how long does it take to send a text?

“You’re being desperate, just drop her,” said Kathleen. Kathleen is a hard cow, but on this occasion I agreed with her. Katy was a flaky friend, and I could never quite tell what she was really thinking.

“I tried to get hold of her last week, rang her buzzer on the way to the library and left a note, but she never answered,” I said, feeing deflated about the whole thing.

“Oh, she moved,” said Kathleen.

Really. This was the first I’d heard of it. No one seemed to know the exact address. I wanted to give Katy the benefit of the doubt, and I knew she was having a hard time, so I left her a voice message suggesting we meet up. She didn’t reply. So I sent an email saying –

“Dear Katy, I hope everything is ok, I was worried because I’d not heard from you. I’m sorry Kathleen was rude to you. If it’s any consolation, I think she’s a bitch. I only hang out with her because she’s best-friends with my flatmate Yasmin. I’m really sorry about the situation with your mum and dad, but I understand if you don’t really want to talk about it. I’m sure they’re both ok. I hope your film is going well. If you ever need anything, just call. Love Cara. xxxx” 

I was also missing my own mum and dad. I’d taken to hanging out in stupid coffee shops, spending way to much money on milky Americanos, as it was the closest I could get to sitting in mum’s kitchen at home with a big mug of warm coffee. I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like for both your parents to desert you. I don’t entirely blame Katy’s mum for her “episodes” but I feel that if you are a parent you have to be strong for your child. And not sit around in a bathrobe all day taking pills. There, I’ve said it. I’ll probably get lots of hate mail from people in bathrobes, but I don’t care. I know when my life has been really fucked-up, helping other people has been the thing that’s got me through.

(Connie keeps telling me off about my coffee-shop addiction. She says it’s ritualistic and that I am feeding the capitalist machine. In case you hadn’t guessed, like most artists, Connie is a socialist. Above is one of Connie’s anti-capitalist pieces called: Substitute for Mother.)

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