Sitting at the table he observed the mass of people surge and recede. Like water churning around a myriad of hidden obstacles, they swirled around and seemed to randomly change directions at will. They all seemed so happy and carefree, a condition that had rarely plagued him. Seemingly worlds apart, the action slowed around him to a crawl as his mind sped along its course of thought, considering all that went on. Occasionally someone would interrupt his reverie to goad him into dancing, always to no avail.
He could never understand how he always ended up being forced into attendance at such gatherings. He was almost continually lonely from the time he arrived to when he finally managed to slip away. So many memories mirrored his current surroundings that it was difficult to discern one occasion from another. Always he ended up alone sitting by himself as he absorbed the laughter and mirth around him to no effect. Apparently this was a recurring catch-22, a situation whose outcome he could never alter.
The feelings that prevented him from enjoying himself were a confused jumble in his mind. He hated dancing, though he could certainly see nothing inherently wrong with it. Perhaps it was due to the touching involved, the even whimsical feint at intimacy of some kind with another person. Touch was something he had always feared. It made him uncomfortable with the feelings of vulnerability it inflicted upon him. As long as he was not in physical contact with someone he could remain objective, aloof, a cold observant. But as soon as someone touched him he felt his privacy invaded, and felt naked.
The only relationship he had had in his life had only worsened matters and left its emotional scars. His girlfriend had done her best to overcome his fear of touch, to some success. He had grown accustomed to holding hands and hugging to express feelings for another. She had even tried to teach him to dance, to his great embarrassment even in a private setting. When they had broken up, all progress had been lost and his phobia and discomfort had increased several times over. Now the touch of a girl brought back memories which he would forget at any cost if it were at all possible.
The entire evening had not been an entire waste. Earlier he had done his share of joking and conversing to some extent with those he knew at his table. They were all younger than he was, though one or two were close to his age. He had always gotten along better with the youngest children. Playing at games that they enjoyed but most considered under his maturity was not out of the question for him. Life was about having fun and not about behaving in public - at least to his way of thinking. Children were by far the most forgiving and least likely to broach painful topics in their honest talk or play with him. It was almost a pity that children grew up and became adults.