I bang on the sliding glass door and wait in a puddle of sweat until my dad grunts up from his post-dinner CNN binge and opens the door. “Girl, you break this glass, you better have the money to fix it.”

I don’t. “Have you heard from your brother?” My mom sits fixed on her computer screen, clacking and clicking away. It’s 7 PM. She has worked a 12-hour day at her stay-at-home desk. But if I broke the glass, my parents wouldn’t have the money to fix it either. “No.”

My other brother waits for me at the kitchen table, pre-algebra on his Chromebook screen. I’m his teacher, but also his classmate because the BA I’ve collected isn’t enough for a good job. I need a PhD to spell the American Dream so that one day, maybe, I will have the money to fix a broken door.

Sweat saturates my mask and drips black Sharpie down my arm. Sweat fades the hotline number for bail, the remnant of a night spent protesting the police—the same police I watched harass a homeless man outside the 7-11 on my run.

I’m sweating from my run, hot and angry thinking about the homeless man and Breonna Taylor and my mom still working and my brother not in school and the national crisis narrated by Anderson Cooper directly to my living room in the hottest September, in one of the hottest years in human history. Watching the final act of the American Dream: a nightmare.

And I think, “Is this how it feels to live at the end?”

But there is another heat inside of me, an ember burning bright inside my chest, another dream sewn into my heart with the hands of my grandmother, and her mother, and all the Black women that came before. It’s growing hot and feels about to burst into a flame: the dream of environmental justice.

The American Dream was always a myth. My parents are Air Force veterans, civilian government servants who both worked for degrees as full-time parents. But in my living room, I’m watching Mom work 12-hour days because we have multiple student loans and her three kids rack up medical bills. And so does she—because she works 12-hour days, and it strains her back and her neck and her eyes and her brain. She works 12-hour days so we can have Christmas and birthdays and a house with a mortgage and chase the American Dream deeper into debt.

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