I pull up CNN on my phone and click refresh.
Biden Getting Close. Refresh.
Biden Nearing 270. Refresh.
Biden Closes In On 270. Refresh.
For days the headline barely changes. Nearing is not enough. Closing in is not enough. The gap needs to be obliterated…annihilated…eviscerated. My stomach ties itself in knots. Constrictor knots, double fisherman’s knots, the kind of knots that are almost impossible to untie. Someone will have to cut them out in order for me to breathe again. I lie awake at night, body buzzing with adrenaline. In the morning my eyes have shrunk to the size of peas from lack of sleep. For four days episodes of The Great British Baking Show are the only balm for my jangled nervous system.
And then Saturday arrives.
I stumble out of the bedroom and bump into my seventeen year old standing in the hall staring down at his phone. His face is lit up.
Did you hear the news?
No. I haven’t been online yet.
He did it. He won.
Are you sure?? Is it real?
He shows me his phone and I read the headline: Biden Wins. It’s real.
My eyes sting, and my son pulls me into a hug. I wrap my arms around his tall, skinny body, marveling at how he towers over me. The child who made me a mother has somehow become a man.
Harlan and I are jittery with pent up tension. We need an outlet, so we throw the dog in the back of the car and head to a nearby fire road. We put on our masks before stepping onto the trail. As we start to walk my euphoria heightens my senses. The fall air tingles on my skin. The November light is cool, sharp, white. It illuminates every leaf and needle, making our surroundings shimmer. The tang of pine needles pierces my nose. I take a deep breath, and my chest expands for the first time in days.
I’ve walked this road hundreds of times. But I’ve never made it all the way to the end. The trail is six miles out and back. In the past my Lyme-y body and time constraints prevented me from accomplishing this. But today my body is stronger, and the three of us have all the time in the world.
Riley senses that there’s something to celebrate. He zigzags back and forth along the trail, sniffing at each new and exciting smell, his blond Muppet fur flopping up and down as he runs. Harlan grabs a stick and Riley leaps four feet into the air in an attempt to grab it. We throw the stick as far as we can, and Riley chases it down, flips it into the air with his mouth and then settles himself onto the trail to gnaw it. When we catch up to him he abandons the stick, zooms far ahead of us, then spins around and races back at full speed. He is an outward expression of what we’re feeling inside.
We reach the end of the trail. A metal gate separates us from the neighborhood beyond. I touch it and give a little whoop. Harlan hugs me. We take a picture to commemorate the moment. Both my personal victory and our country’s collective one. We walk back to the trailhead and load ourselves into the car. As we head home I feel both calm and invigorated.
My relief lasts for just one day. By the following morning it becomes clear that the transition of power won’t be a smooth one. My stomach ties itself back up in knots. My breath becomes so shallow I develop a pain in my back. For the next few weeks I check the headlines again and again. Lawsuits and false declarations of victory and accusations of voter fraud flood my screen. My anxiety returns, and I find it hard to focus on anything else. I’m all out of sorts, and my family is the unhappy beneficiary of my agitation. At night, I toss and turn once again.
And then, yesterday, I pull up a news site and read:
Transition Formally Begins.
The knots loosen. My body relaxes. I can breathe. We can breathe. It’s time to refresh.