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What it Was Like in Pennsylvania When Joe Biden Won

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Joe Biden celebration at his childhood home in Scranton, PA. Photo by Kelly Dessoye

BY KELLY DESSOYE

This originally appeared on Medium

You know that feeling when you have a brush a little too close with danger? The nerves in your skin prick up, one by one in a wave of pins and needles. Your heart flutters in it’s cage.

Fight or flight.

That’s how it’s felt to bleed blue in Northeastern PA this week.

Whether it was the dude brandishing an “I smell voter fraud” placard or the Trump toting fellow making small talk with pointed eye contact in the voter line.

“I see you walking your dog, how’s she doing?”

Next level creepy considering I’d never seen the guy. Intimidation by neighborly banter? That’s a new one.

Suffice to say the vibe was a little funky around here.

The dog in question. Photo by Kelly Dessoye

* * *

By Friday Northeastern Pennsylvania was spent — ready to turn in after a marathon bender that has left us scorched on both ends.

Pro Joe signs in Scranton Photo by Kelly Dessoye

In Scranton the air was drugged with love for Joe, her native son. Friday afternoon Wilkes-Barre went to bed after one last rager — a red cry to “stop the count”.

A friend and lifelong Scrantonian coined it “election fatigue.”

Any other year we’d be sleeping on each other’s couches, eyes glued to the TV, fingers entangled in our high school bestie’s palms — a sea of liquor and snacks spilling onto the living room floor. The Democratic candidate was from SCRANTON after all. Maybe people will stop asking if we’re from “where The Office takes place.” (please don’t, we love it).

But that human need, to feed off the energy of like-minded companions — to connect — is too risky in Pennsylvania, where our COVID headcount just soared over 3,500 in a single day, so instead of holding hands we clutch our phones, fingers fluttering over the keyboards, beaming updates from Scranton, to Laflin, to Montrose, to Philly. Texts from friends this week read things like:

“I wore blue to work thinking they’d call it this afternoon.”

“It’s election fatigue.”

“Pittsburgh just added to the {Biden} lead!”

“The vibe in Philly is lit!!”

John King has emerged as the bff chat bae. “I can watch him move numbers on a touch screen all day.” Swoon.

* * *

A Biden supporter in Scranton. Photo by Kelly Dessoye

By now the whole world knows how this panned out. Pennsylvania to blue, Biden to the White House.

“How does this make you feel?”

Photo by Kelly Dessoye

That’s a question resonant among folks in NEPA as we pulled the bottles of bubbly from the fridge — some for celebrating, others for drowning sorrows.

A Biden supporter in Scranton, PA. Photo by Kelly Dessoye

Before Pennsylvania put this whole election to rest, I have to admit, I was afraid. The air is thick with conservative values and people can be…unpredictable. Would we be able to talk to our family members, friends, colleagues, in a genuine way without dancing around the Elephant in the room?

* * *

A November 7 sunrise drive around Scranton. Photo by Kelly Dessoye

Around sunrise on November 7, I drove my Outback through Old Forge up into Scranton to catch a vibe for the place while she still slept.

You could just feel it. Saturday was going to be one for the books. Those heightened nerves? They were in full swing, but Tuesday’s fever had broken into a hazy simmer. The vote was all but called in favor of Biden — only a fraction of a percentage point to go — and as I rolled through narrow streets there was a sense of…calm.

For the first time in a hot minute, I am hopeful.

Photo by Kelly Dessoye

* * *

So, how does it make me feel?

Proud of being from this place in a way that I didn’t — couldn’t — embody when I last lived here 15 years ago — and so damn lucky to have found my way back “home.”

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