What you missed if you missed the party

What you missed if you missed the party

It starts somewhere between your home and Carling Avenue, as your taxi hums along winter-slick streets.  You’ve heard about the drivers they’ve hired to shuttle everyone home after the party, and the thought gives you a little thrill, like you’re a celebrity.  You sneak a glance at your reflection in the car window.  City lights rise and fade beyond your face and you feel a pang of pity for everyone driving in the opposite direction.  They don’t know what you know.  They don’t know that tonight there’s only one real place to be.

The taxi deposits you outside of a building you hardly recognize, though you’ve been here before.  The parking lot has been transformed into a dazzling Hollywood boulevard.  It’s like the whole building holds its arms out to you, folds you inside. You step onto a red carpet, framed by velvet stanchions under the canopy of a sweeping white tent.  A photographer with a halo of curly brown hair asks if you would like your picture taken and you strike a pose, feeling the evening extend lavishly before you.  The sound of the party boils out from the building doors.  You recognize familiar voices, the staccato laugh of a long-lost friend.  Suddenly, you can’t wait to be in there.

They know you at the door, where inMotion’s Amanda Barakat greets you with a dazzling smile and hands you a nametag in company colours.  You step into the building like a child into Narnia, hardly believing how it all looks.  Christmas trees wrapped in white lights shimmer in the corner.  Where there had once been desks, computers, rolling chairs, and bricks of printer paper stacked against the wall, you now discover an enormous buffet, reaching into the room like a waiter’s arm.  You taste fresh, buttery shrimp, barbecued chicken, a baked brie that weakens you at the knees as you scoop it onto a disk of fresh French bread.  For now, you are happy just to enjoy the flavour of the party, the glowing faces around you, the tide of voices and laughter and music that crests against you.

Then someone touches your arm and you turn to see your friends, bright with eagerness, friends who haven’t seen you in ages, friends who have been waiting for you, scanning the crowd for your face.  They guide you through the buzzing crowd to the bar, where you order the signature martini.  The bartender places a glass in your hand garnished with red sugar and the classic inMotion play button, cut from Jello.  You take a tentative sip and for a moment you picture the party from above—it’s a game you play when you feel explosively happy, when the building just isn’t large enough to contain all of its own potential.  You imagine removing the roof and looking down at all the party guests, mingling, churning, moving between the walls.  Like toys, and just as carefree.  It’s a joy to open your eyes and come back down, come back to the party, which has only just started, after all.  The whole night remains ahead of you.

You discover the band much later, drawn by a single sultry voice that stretches like a cat into the hallway, long and luxurious.  You follow it around a corner and into the studio, where a feeling of surprise pins you to the wall for just a moment as you struggle to reorient yourself.  This is no longer the shooting studio you came to know; this is a jazz lounge, straight from the pure heart of an era you never knew but instinctively recognize.  People sit or stand around candlelit tables, drinks forgotten by their sides, watching a jazz band play like it’s the only one left on earth.  Surely the vocalist has been transported here from the nineteen-forties; she lifts her voice like a torch singer, her glamourous red dress catching flecks of gold cast by two production lights, which gaze at her as devotedly as her audience.  This is Paula McGowan, singer by night and inMotion office manager by day.  It’s an amazing thought.  You sink into the music, grateful, thirsty for it.  You try to imagine the inMotion headquarters on a regular morning—Wednesday, for example, the most banal of all days—and you give up.  Tonight, this is a whole different world.

Time folds in half and suddenly hours have gone by, just like that.  The band stops for a break, but their spell hangs over the room as people turn to one another with dazed looks – could you believe that?

You head for fortification at the open bar, and though it’s only down the hall, the journey takes you nearly an hour—and you love it intensely.  There are so many people who want to talk with you.  So many inMotion folks scattered through the crowd, reaching out, seizing you in bone-crushing embraces.

It’s after midnight and everyone has that sparkling, collaborative feeling, like we’re all in this together, rocking the house. Pat McGowan, inMotion’s magnificent patriarch, wanders through the crowd slapping people on the back and glowing from the inside out.  This is his building, his vision; I see him take a moment with his front-office team, the ladies of inMotion, who flank him on the red carpet for a final photograph of the night. A dance party breaks out in the tent; someone shouts a toast and others repeat it, voices hoarse from the extravagance of the night, glasses clinking and spilling in the air above our heads.

When the chauffeurs arrive to shepherd us home, it’s hard to believe time has passed so quickly.  Before you are willing to leave you extract several promises from inMotion staffers that they’ll hold another party next year.  Your ribs ache from so many bear hugs.  You twist in the back of the chauffeur’s car to watch the building retreat in the distance, the tent standing boldly next to it, its soaring peaks extending towards the sky.

Only 364 more days to wait til the next one.

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