The pieces of a shattered nation lie in flowery clumps and on hand-lettered notes cluttered lovingly around makeshift memorials to innocent children.

No budget deal can bind us together or minimize that individual or collective anguish. But it can simultaneously make real and rise above the larded and lachrymose Washington language about dedication to our children’s fiscal future. If there’s no deal, all of those speeches are forever banished to the dustbin of deception.

Obama and Boehner know this. They will not fail. They cannot bear it. For a galvanizing and agonizing moment, these very different leaders are one, collaborating in a cauldron of collective grief and acting with the knowledge of numbingly familiar budget negotiations.

What is possible is what leaders do and what followers accept.

The nation will this week witness both.