The party began in the expected and usual way - I invited over a few friends, and they invited a few others, and soon we had about a dozen people in a house that can easily host four, eight max. Full to bursting, in other words, and with more people expected.
Luckily, my father-in-law had stopped by to take a look at one of the cars and overheard me talking to Christy about what we could do to make room for more people.
“I have a secret technique,” he said. “I don’t use it often, but it’s very useful for things like this. Do you want me to use it?”
I asked him to, not even sure what he was talking about. He walked to the door to the shed and made a series of half-moons on its metallic surface, half-moons that left behind a brief lavender glow before fading.
“Open the door,” he said. I did, and now the shed door opened up into my in-laws kitchen. Amazed, I went to close the door so I could open it again, and he stayed my hand. “That’s the one rule,” he said. “You have to leave the doors open until the end of the spell, or the whole thing ends.”
A thought occurred to me. I grinned.
“How often can you do this?”
The party was well into its sixth hour and showed no signs of slowing. Our apartment was linked to my in-laws, my dad’s house, my sister’s apartment, the house of a friend down in Lawrence and from there out to half a dozen other places.
The unfinished basement I spent most of my senior year in, studying, listening to the Tragically Hip. My old dorm room. The house where I learned how to study the Bible and how to make a jam-stuffed Brie dip. My aunt’s gallery. A seemingly endless series of apartments and houses of friends, old and new, stretching out through space in a way that was utterly impossible but glorious. The topography, though, paled compared to the people.
Bill Meyers stood over a pot of simmering sauce, arguing the finer points of ragu with my fourth grade teacher. Curtis Graham stood off at the side with Dr. Leax, my old academic advisor, and Elizabeth. Bill Desmarais and Sean Palmer were lost in thought in an intense game of Carcassone while my brother-in-law, John, sat in the third place, still asking questions. My dad and father-in-law and four or five of their friends just wandered from place to place, admiring the cars in the various garages.
People exchanged glasses of wine, beer and spirits from a dozen different countries, traded books of recipes and poems and art, raided closets, showed off treasures and mementos. No one went hungry. Not a one. A hundred throats sang, often singing a hundred different songs, but all reaching together toward a strange and beautiful harmony. Jazz, opera, samba, rock, punk, seemingly every genre represented somewhere.
Me? I was caught in an endless cycle of meeting people. Some I knew only by screenname, some I knew by name but had never actually met. Adam Bowker introduced me to his family, Gina to her roller derby team. I met the families and children of all the people I knew from high school and college, but hadn’t actually seen in years. Dave and Christy Sadecki and I got in a game of hearts. I took a moment to cry on Kathie Brenneman’s shoulder, and she on mine.
Each door was held open. Some tied back, others blocked with a rock or more formal doorstopper, but each entryway was wide and people passed through and spoke to each other easily and happily.
It might have been a day, it might have been a week, but gradually we began the slow process of disassembling the party. Dishes, books, movies and belongings had been passed across entire continents and, my mom joked, you know how pricy shipping is these days. Jackets and sweaters had been thrown over chairs, mostly in the places in Israel, Chile and the like. Dogs, cats and other pets had moved around as well, necessitating a thorough search of every nook and cranny of this highly sociable ant farm-like network of dwelling places. And, of course, everyone wanted to make sure that lawns were cleared, floor vacuumed and the like.
Finally, though, everyone was satisfied that they had at least most of the stuff they’d started with. Most people had a few extra things, too, gifts from people they’d never met before. After a final flurry of people entering contact information into their cellphones, I closed the door to the shed, and slumped against it, exhilarated and exhausted.
“I’d very much like to do that again,” I said, my forehead cooling against the metal.
“Of course,” said the voice behind me. It was supposed to be my father-in-law, but I realized that it was a different voice entirely, one that was quite familiar to me. “The party never really ends, you know.”
“True,” I said, standing up straight and turning around. The figure that was no longer my father-in-law was smiling.
“They’re always with you. Always,” he said. “Always,” he repeated, as I began to drift back to consciousness.