There is a story I love to share with my friends. I made a trip to London one time where my twin brother was to celebrate our upcoming 30th birthday. We went to an ethnic club in central London that evening and I will never forget a man I encountered at the club. He was dressed a little different from everyone else. He had on nice pants, a nice buttoned up shirt with a suit vest. By the looks, one could tell that he was a Ghanaian in his late 40’s or early 50’s.
He was in the middle of the dance floor dancing alone and occasionally, he would try to get a young lady to dance with him. I watched with sadness as all his attempts were rebuffed over and over again. A matured man in a club full of twenty-something-year-olds was not a winning combination. I drew my twin brother’s attention to the man and said, “I will never end up like him.” What did I know at the time? My brother looked at me, let out a laugh and said assuredly, “You have plenty of time.” My twin brother was already married with a kid then. “I will be back to celebrate our 40th birthday with my family. Expect a big celebration!” I replied.
Fast forward a decade later, I found myself in a club in Los Angeles one Saturday night. A friend, also a Ghanaian bachelor, invited me to join him. He was way older than I was and so, I was surprised at the invitation to a club of all places. He was already there when I arrived and behold, there he was in the middle of the dance floor dancing his heart out alone. I watched in amusement as he tried to convince some of the young ladies to dance with him. He failed miserably. Picture an older gentleman in a sea of young people. He looked totally out of place.
Ever get that feeling of deja vu where you are suddenly struck with a realization that you have been in the same scenario before? As I watched him from a distance, the scene in that club in London a decade ago came rushing back.
The problem is that this time around, I was one of the mature men in the club who did not belong there.
I had noticed how young the club patrons were the second I walked in. I chose to ignore that lingering feeling that I did not fit with this crowd and just have fun. However, the deja vu moment forced me to contend with the feeling that I did not belong here. I suddenly felt sick and sorry for myself and my friend. I am not one to pick up girls in a club or try to dance with strangers. How do you even talk to a girl in a club anyway? It is really loud in there! I just stood in a distance sipping on my drink, pretending that I was having fun and enjoying my Saturday evening.
After about an hour, I told my friend that I was leaving.
“Why?!” he asked with a puzzled look.
Feeling the need to be brutally honest about the situation, I responded saying “We don’t belong with this crowd.”
“Are you sure?” He insistently asked
“Yes and very!” I said affirmatively.
On the drive home, I was consumed with thoughts of that fateful night 10 years ago. Wondering where I made a left turn on the road of life. “How did I end up here?” I asked myself. Shortly after leaving the UK back then, I met someone, got married and sadly, the marriage was over after seven years. I was still in my 30’s when I got divorced. I certainly never expected to be single in my early 40’s.
I stopped by at an all-night diner on my way home. I needed a different atmosphere to reflect. As I sat in the booth lost in thought and waiting for my coffee, my attention was caught by a young couple sitting together a few tables away from me. Her head was on his shoulder. There was hardly any space between those two for air to penetrate. She had that drugged look of love in her eyes. She was staring into space, totally drowned in the sea of love. He was equally stoned with love. He barely touched his food and she was not eating at all. They kissed every few minutes. It was not the meaningless kiss tenured couples exhibit as an obligatory expression. Theirs was passionate; both eyes closed, hug getting tighter by the second. It was February and love was in the air for sure.
The young couple leads me to a familiar place. A place I know too well. There is something about being single that makes one notice lovers more and really pay attention to them. One cannot help but be enamored just in that moment. One willingly takes a pause to imbibe the moment. Deep down in the subconscious mind of most singletons, the pause is a result of the inherent need to connect emotionally with a lover. This need is dormant yet very much alive and ever present.
That night was a wake-up call for me. A decade old unfulfilled promise was back, full throttle, to haunt me. I chose to be human and accept the temporary reminder of what I am missing; the touch and care of a loved one. We are all wired for connection at birth. The continuous lack of human touch creates a deficiency. There is no rush to fix the deficiency for me but there is the knowledge that a cure will be needed subsequently.
Joni Mitchell’s “big yellow taxi” broke on the restaurant music channel as I sat there. I couldn’t relate to Joni that day, though. I was thinking more of Jim Croce’s “time in a bottle.” Time in a Bottle is one of those songs I can listen to all day when I become reflective. There is something about the lyrics which captures the painful realities of missed opportunities in love and relationships.
It was now 3 o’clock in morning and I felt a battle raging inside me. I couldn’t quite remember what I was fighting for, though. I had drifted into that dangerous space again. That space where I want to push to see how far I can go. I am generally happy with life but I still feel as if there is an emptiness; an emptiness I try to ignore.
I carry a lot of titles; business professional, father, friend, brother, uncle, mentor, blogger. I am missing one title; a lover. I remind myself that the missing title is nothing more than an enhancement of all the other roles I play. That I am living a significant life even if I am missing a significant other.
Oh well, I was jolted back at the club and got launched in a turmoil. I knew I had to step back, take a long hard look and reorient myself. This is how coming to the crossroads of life looks like, this is how it feels. There is always hope and there are always beautiful strangers out there.
By Kwadjo Panyin
Kwadjo Panyin is a Ghanaian born relationship and lifestyle blogger located in Los Angeles, California. He holds three degrees; a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MBA from Franklin University in Ohio and a Masters of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky. Kwadjo is a business professional who blogs for fun. His articles are about the challenges of dating and relationship anomalies. Writing, blogging, world travel, and photography are his favorite hobbies.