Joli and I were poets in New York together in our early 20’s, and now we are middle-aged single moms who went through our divorces in parallel, each from our own coast. Once upon a time, we would talk about what Joli thought Derrida meant when he said such-and-such, or what I thought about why her boyfriend gave her headaches—the one she married and eventually divorced. Now we were comparing stories about our kids each having been excluded from a classmate’s birthday party.
“When you say it,” says Joli, “It sounds so absurd that I can’t believe I’m so upset about this.”
What she means is: How could we be heartbroken over birthday parties?
I understand in this moment that we are not heartbroken over birthday parties; we are simply heartbroken. And being excluded by anyone—even by people of questionable significance—feels like being poked with a stick in the broken place.
Just listening to each other helped us actually sort out the true grief and loneliness, and name accurately the great vulnerability we feel moving around in the world as representatives of our families, alone.
Getting excluded in our respective school communities illuminated the truth that we were also both deeply included—by each other. We decided to turn our attention there: to the high comedy and deep poetry of heartbreak available to us in each other’s company.