I looked at him across the dance floor. He was holding a glass of wine in his hand and talking to people casually. He smiled once in a while when someone said something vaguely funny but I could tell something was wrong. His smile was not reaching his eyes. I wondered what it was. Was it the wife who loved him immensely? Was it the kid whose birthday party I was attending? I was wondering what did this man need to feel fulfilled.
His shoulders gave a noncommittal shrug once in a while as if trying to express some boredom at being stuck with a room full of people. I was wondering if all he needed was to get away and be alone. I knew him well once. He had been with me in school. We were never quite friends. We just had mutual friends and hence I was dragged to this odd party of a seven year old. He had changed since school. He wore a suit now, he owned his own car. He had worked hard I imagine but why such boredom. Why such emptiness in eyes?
I moved my gaze away from him scared that if he saw me he would think I am staring. I wasn’t really staring at him, I was just wondering. Here I was, old and alone. I was capable of actually having pleasant conversation but the man who seems to have thrown this party and who should have enthusiasm to greet his guests was really just bored with his drink. He was attending to guests but as if he would be doing something else completely. I was standing with some of my school friends. All engaged or married with kids sharing their story about families. I kept thinking maybe after a few years in life, that’s all people can talk about. Nothing about self development. Nothing about learning something new. It was all about their kids learning a new word or the new toy they just bought. I was a misfit, but to my surprise so was my host.
He came over sometime later when I was listening to one of the fathers tell this funny story about how his son had ruined the restaurant decorum the other day. Blah blah. Like I cared. He came over and said hello and I noticed he had a new drink in hand. I doubt he got drunk in a few drinks because I could see he was a calm man. He spoke to everyone in general and made a few jokes about how they should do this more often. While moving away, he brushed past me and apologized.
I said: “Hey there mister, look where you walking”
He said: “OMG I didn’t see you! How come you are not talking to anyone?”
Me: “Oh you know, these parties are not for me. Anyway, everyone here is talking about either babies or partners and as you can see I am still all alone.”
Him: “Don’t say that you are alone. It doesn’t matter. What have you been up to lately?”
We talked for a while and I was waiting for a moment. I could feel like I needed to know why he was the way he was. He was saying goodbye to me when I asked: “Hey listen, what’s up with you? You don’t look okay?”
He was like: “How would you know now?”
Me: “Just by the way you keep turning your drink from one hand to the other, you are not even committed about drinking it, let alone being at this party.”
Him: “You want to know really?”
He held out a hand and said: “Let go then”
Me: “You sure it’s okay for you to leave?”
Him: “I am absolutely certain they won’t miss me”