The Last Minute Dread You’re Feeling Right About Now

Believe me, I feel it too

Now what? Went to the grocery store in an odd panic, buying food for tomorrow in case… in case… I don’t even know what. It seemed smart to stock up on essentials. Voting? Did it days ago. Arrange to watch returns with friends? Of course not, because COVID. In 2016, we were invited to four election night parties and we strategized traveling from one to the other as if we were landing planes at JFK. Of course, twenty minutes into the first party, it became no party at all, more of a shell-shock ward, and we slunk home early and pulled the covers over our heads.

This year? I told a friend I’d call him tomorrow about something unrelated to the election, and he said, No, don’t call, it’s going to be too weird of a day, I’m not going to answer the phone. Now, I’ve lived through many elections and never had a PHONE CALL turned down before. What can we call this strange, disassociated, floating, disoriented anxiety? Have we ever felt it before? I have no prior memory of such a feeling; certainly never in connection to an election. It is some species of anxiety, but with a tinge of dread that’s different. A thud in the gut. I don’t like it.

I’m watching the news and not watching. I’m reading polls and not reading. I’m sending last-minute donations here and there, for no reason since at this point it will make no difference, but I can’t help it. It’s a version of twiddling my thumbs: Activity that serves to feel active and nothing more.

Someone painted anti-Biden graffiti on two houses on my street this past weekend. The vandal used fluorescent paint, hot pink and lime green, the kind of colors you often see on storefronts when they are advertising their going-out-of-business sales — garish, bright but not cheerful, dramatic but not interesting. It was a cheerless, ugly gesture. The homeowners painted over it that same day. It was as if it had been a surface wound and the skin healed quickly, completely. Driving past the newly-repaired wall made my day.

Staff writer, The New Yorker. Author of The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, and more…Head of my very own book club (join me!)

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