A Portrait

Laura Elizabeth Horgan

© Copyright 2021 by Laura Elizabeth Horgan

Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash
                                    Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash

This is a glimpse at a life and the relationships that coexist within it. The story is personal, but arenít they all? There is no beginning or ending, the story isnít over and its hard to know in the grand scheme of things where it really all began. At the center of every story told, whispered, shouted, remembered, forgotten, and sung is that of the story of love. This is a portrait of the varying degrees of love experienced in one short span of a life so far. 

The people I knew worthy of a tale barely had two pennies to rub together to make a third. But they knew how to put together a good time like it was nothing more than a cocktail. I drank them up, intoxicated and drunk on the lives and doings of the people around me who seemed to be all in, all the time. I rode on their coat tails and enjoyed the view. 

Going from my teenage years to a slightly more prolific young adulthood, it was a slippery slope from booze to cigarettes, cigarettes to spliffs and spliffs to lines of coke. By my mid-twenties, no weekend passed without a gram and bottle of wine. Every Monday the life had been vacuumed out of me. I was tired and hung over until mid-week and come Friday, we would do it all again.

That was the life of an unencumbered twenty something with no prospects but a gallon of opportunity, and I was thirsty. Thirsty for the world, for the places yet to be seen by everyone but me. I hungered for conversations with strangers because I had been starved of the simplicity of it for so long. That and I wanted to get away and be missed and wanted by the people who I had long adored and placed on imaginary pedestals.

As a millennial, I belong to a generation of imitators. What came before us recycled and reborn. The words spoken or sung were timeless, styles cherry picked from the decades of yesteryear and hung off our bodies worn with no sophistication but enough sincerity to pull it off.

I smoked Mayfair and Benson and Hedges, with a cigarette hanging from my lips, I thought I was the epitome of cool. Boys weren't a conveyor belt; they were few and far between and any boy I shared a bed with was a forgettable experience. No great love affairs with wild, passionate sex. 

Except one.

One boy from the days I still wore a uniform would flit and flutter into my life. Eyes meeting across a local bar or a crowded smoking area. Most of the time polite niceties were spoken and nothing more was said. He would go home with someone else, and I would pine for him. I still do, in a way.

We had a dalliance or two, going back to his for heavy petting, waking up the next day and being sent home as if nothing happened. Then we wouldn't speak, I donít remember why, I donít even remember if I tried to stay in touch with him.

But it didn't matter, I would want him too much and he would never want me enough. Even now I think of him. We were ships passing in the night, never on the same path, and when we did collide, the impact was quick and over before we could make false promises to each other.

They say in life you meet someone who sets your heart on fire, but the truth is that won't be the person you spend your life with. I donít think he set my heart on fire, I think I am disconcerted at how unfinished it felt, how it still feels. My curse is that I believe he owes me something because I wanted more from him. Truth is, nothing is owed, there is no debt to be paid and the dust was settled and wiped away. There are just some people you can't let go or forget, no matter how hard you try, even if something infinitely better comes along.

As my teenager years metamorphosised into adulthood, even the way I looked at my friends ebbed and flowed, changing like the tide. I drifted on a wind, I found myself far out from the shore, looking back at what I had floated away from. These girls I admired who were my friends, they were beautiful, they had commonalities and conversational rhythm where I was different and would stutter over my words. I often thought if they found me as awkward as I found myself, now I don't really care. The porcelain cracks as it ages, the mask slips. You realise you're all the same anyway, no one more beautiful than the next. No one more sophisticated. No one cooler. Often the people you deem unmissable, you forget the moment your back is turned.

So why do I miss them?

We always miss the people we have in our lives, like we canít get enough of them. I have been needy and desperate for the man I call my Father, wanting him whilst keeping him at an armís length, away from knowing who I am and what I have become. I guess you could say, in his presence, I always felt melancholy. It was an explicit sort of sadness that always had to be hidden away, for fear of judgement or loathing. Time spent with me was a duty, not a desire, even if that isn't how he felt, itís how he made me feel.

He is the most interesting man I have never known. The best stories worthy of teatime tales and drunken legends are those of him. Born to Irish parents who left him in Ireland when he was a baby only to retrieve him six months later and be rejected unknowingly by their own son for their necessary abandonment. This act left him vilified by his mother who raised him alongside two younger siblings adored more than he. 

Growing up he lived in the dismal heights of North London, played youth football, scouted for top clubs and played alongside nineties football legends, but like most great talent, women and booze took precedence.

Whatever possessed my mother to marry him remains a mystery even to her. After eleven years and three kids they divorced. My father heavily pursued a professional tennis career for my older brother that created a canyon of despair for my brother and disillusionment for my father.

On the side-lines, vigilant, but losing patient with each passing year, we're the less interesting of the children. The only girl and his youngest gay son who preferred dressing up and barbies to football and lad banter.

Any conversation tried with my father was one that inflicted another bite of pain, it always left a mark, the disinterest. Not wanting to know whom your own flesh and blood were, their passions, their interests, wants and desires. It emblazoned in my mind that I was unworthy of knowing, that I must be so dull and flaccid, that it was better to talk at me than to me.

I grew up, as all little girls do and as I educated myself with life and travel, I came to accept the man as he was. No single soul was as interesting as him, everyone was a background player, and he was the star of the show. He was most likely the happiest out of us, even despite during the eventual passing of his mother, he decimated the relationships he had with his siblings.

Now he is a well-known swinger. He ventures abroad to sex it up with mysterious strangers, getting his kicks in exotic ways. Notorious on the circuit, my father has been a performer in every aspect of his life. He stands out from the crowd, a jack the lad. Abandoning his life like his cars on the highway. Love had eluded him, most likely feeling as if he was unworthy of it since being abandoned and then rejected by his own mother.

As I said, he is the most interesting person I have never known.

And the woman responsible for the man that became my Father, her hair was like wire, her nails were always painted but always chipped, and she laughed copiously at her own terrible jokes. The makeup she wore accentuated nothing about her, the conversation was often a blade dipped in poison, or an asp waiting to strike. She would try to strike you with words, make you feel less than worthy of her affections. 

Her house was an array of patterns that were dusty, worn and dated. Nothing matched, everything looked and felt old, and the same furniture followed her from London to Eastbourne, Ireland and back again.

It never felt like a home, or a place I would want to stay for too long. Visits were obligatory, until they weren't and I was old enough to say no. When that day did come it felt as if the relationship shifted. I was no longer a kid, and I understood what was being said between the lines, so eventually nothing was said at all, only the niceties. By then it was too late, and when she died, I failed to shed a single tear. There was no love there, she was grandmother by blood. Ironically, my grandmother who I had lost before was not mine by blood, yet that was a loss that was tragic in my life, for she was what a grandmother should be.

I feel grateful to have experienced both ends of the spectrum. To my father's mother, I was the daughter of a woman who was never good enough for her son. That animosity ricocheted down to her children; we bore its brunt. But the love we felt from my motherís adoptive parents, shows that just because a person's blood courses through your veins, does not give them the right to your affections. 

Love, like trust, is earned. They demand it like a debt that must be paid because they played some biological part in your existence. I think that is where so many go wrong. Relativeís feel is owed to them, but its more complicated than that. We choose love, like we choose our friends and our lovers. Then we earn that love back, and we cradle and nurture the love of another. Nurse it to live alongside us, feed it and care for it.

I will choose every love I have and want including the love I have for myself. As my hair turns from ash brown to silver, my skin maps my life upon the skin for all to read and grow into who I was always supposed to be, I will discard the parts of my life that do not serve me. Even if that means people in my life are a part of the fallout.

Contact Laura

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Laura's story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher