I would like to know what "I need to check on somebody." means in the following sentences:

We followed him through a wood-panelled corridor into a large room filled with smoke and people. Music blasted throughout the place, hot and loud, rockingly hypnotic. Couples danced in the middle of the room or lay spread out on a white yeti carpet. The only light came from lamps on the floor, one by a large television, another behind a pair of giant palm trees in pots. Maksio led us to the end of the room, where grand bay windows looked out on to the dark and seemingly infinite treetops of the park.

‘Help yourself,’ he said, pointing to a table covered in bottles and plates. ‘I need to check on somebody.’ He winked at us and disappeared in the crowd.

There were vodkas and whiskies and gins and vermouths, and bottles I had never seen before, and colourful plates of aspic meats and pineapple rings and cheese cubes. I wanted to taste everything. I ate some grapes and downed some whisky, feeling the liquid’s journey through my body, earthy and sweet and unburdening. The music and the laughter of the people all merged in my mind, spinning me into its net. I didn’t recognise anyone in the dim light of the room, every silhouette seemed equally important and glamorous: girls in dresses and clogs and hair piled high, boys in high-waisted blue jeans and tight shirts and jackets.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the birthday party of his rich friend Hania. When they rang the doorbell, Hania's brother Maksio came out of the house and led them into the party room. After that, Maksio left them alone, saying he "needed to check on somebody." (Afterwards he was seen with a blond girl on the dance floor.)

In this part, I would like to know what he meant. Does he mean he must return to a person who was waiting for him? Or that he must look after somebody...?

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

  • 1
    I don't think we can help you here (unless somebody here remembers communist Poland). For all I know, this might be a Polish equivalent of "I need to see a man about a dog." (And given the wink, I suspect it is ... he's going off for reasons that he doesn't want to tell Ludwik.)
    – Peter Shor
    Dec 19, 2020 at 12:56
  • Dear @PeterShor, thank you very much for the explanation. I didn't know that there was an expression regarding a man and a dog used when one excuses oneself! I learned a new thing thanks to you. Probably "check on somebody" would have that kind of effect here. Dec 21, 2020 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


To check on somebody means to make sure that someone is safe. In this context, it may just mean to make sure that the person in question is feeling fine. At least, that would be the expected literal meaning. However, Maksio might be using the expression as a polite excuse to get away from the two guests to join someone whose company they enjoy more.

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