I’m outside Harvard Medical School across from Beth Israel Deaconness Hospital. There’s a big pavilion with trees and round tables and iron chairs. Yellow canvas umbrellas try to hide seated people from the heat. Some wear their green scrubs. They talk over lunch salads or click on their laptops. Some look like they are listening to the poem I am sharing at the mic. I feel excited. To my left are ping pong tables and rolling carts filled with books and newspapers. A headline says deaths for outdoor workers have doubled. Soon it’s going to be their health or their job. I can smell Thai peanut sauce following the crowd to the food trucks. I feel ready to share the poem about the day my mother died. I’m feeling hot. I feel the sweat beading down my forehead. As I recite, my eyes are glued to a Latino medical student as he walks over to the books.

And I’m remembering walking in Woodland Hills down Flame Tree Lane. It’s 121 degrees. I’m feeling trapped. I can’t take a breath. My skin wants to peel off. To my left is a construction worker at a table saw in front of a house that they’re adding a second story to. His muscles shine. His gloves drip from the heat. He’s staring at the saw. His face says he knows his job is killing him. His eyes look hollow, like a band-aid on a fever. He’s doing it for the paycheck so that little Miguel can go to college, maybe medical school, but he knows he won’t be there to see him walk across the stage. I’m caught mid-step. My breath is stuck and I can’t do anything more than silently pray for help.

What are you looking for?