Red Blood, White Myth, and Blue Dreams

By 30, I had accomplished every dream I’d ever had — but my new life came with a price I didn’t know how to pay

Sarah Nicole Lemon
Human Parts


Credit: bphillips/Getty Images

II balance on a two-by-four, feathering the trigger of my staple gun with impatience. My shift ends in 15 minutes and then it’s a race to be showered, transformed, and through D.C. traffic. Sawdust and little flecks of paint, from the metal table I build roof trusses on, cover my overalls and exposed skin. My nails are manicured inside my beat-to-shit deer-hide gloves. I am the only woman out here in the yard, and I flex my fingers, swollen from hammering and gripping the staple gun all day, wondering if my rings will fit.

Probably not.

Another set of boards is tossed up to me, and I fall into the rhythm of work with one eye still on the clock.

An impossible two-and-a-half hours later, I walk into the Georgetown hotel with my raw honey-brown hair swept down my back, wearing a black ribbed dress that reaches my ankles, wrists, and neck, but is split up my leg. My work-hardened thighs are visible with each step, bare until the wool work socks I’ve tucked down into my boots. My lipstick is perfect. My skin glows under my soft makeup, the product of two layers of lotion I swathed on at 5 a.m., leading a man at work to ask…