A Dark Road to Peace, is the story of Lorena Hernandez a beautiful young trans-latina who is brutally murdered during a hate crime. In “A Dark Road to Peace” Lorena recounts the story of her life and the events that led to her final resting place. In this scene Lorena, who was born Luis to her father Ramon and mother Luisa walks us through the day her relationship with her father would be changed forever.
On row 27 plot 16 you will find my final resting place. I have been filed under the name John Doe and the serial number 870209 is engraved into my wooden casket. There are no monuments or awards named in my honor; I have been forgotten to the outside world. The only evidence of my existence is a Facebook page that has been left to gather the occasional tag and invite. I live only in the memory of few. My name is Lorena Hernandez and this is my story.
I was 8 years old when I noticed I was different. How could I not? Everyone in school wouldn’t let me forget it. All I heard was “move it pato” “por ahí viene el marica”. I didn’t even know what marica meant, all I knew was that I didn’t act like my brother Junior and I didn’t enjoy the same things he did, even Junior and his friends called me that too.
One summer night I sat on the toilet seat watching my mother enact her make up routine for a night on the town with my father. My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, even more beautiful than any of the women in the novelas or Miss Universe. She was the embodiment of what I believed una mujer latina should be; she was strong, smart, sensual and sassy. She was curvy in all the right places and had a sway on the dance floor that left men drooling and women rolling their eyes. She was fair skinned, something favored back home in Santo Domingo, a stark contrast from the copper complexion I received from my father’s mullato roots. At the time, my mother had dark chestnut brown hair that came down to the small of her back and was highlighted with soft side bangs that framed perfectly almond shaped brown eyes with the most flawlessly arched eyebrows you’d ever seen. Those eyes were my mother’s secret weapon, she could get a man to drop the price of an oil change from fifty to ten bucks with just a smile and the bat of one of those eyes.
Watching my mother get ready to go out was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. It was like watching a principal dancer effortlessly performing her choreography . She’d roll her shoulders flipping her hair away from her face, shimmied her breasts into the perfect heart shape to get the right amount of cleavage, she’d close the drawers to her vanity with the swing of a hip that was perfectly complimented by a tiny waist that showed no sign of ever carrying a child, let alone two. Her body moved with the inner beat of the congas a rhythmic reflection of the blood of the former slaves that coursed through her body as Juan Luis Guerra’s “Si tú te vas” played in the background. Yes, she was all woman, and exuded it from every pore. In my eyes I had been birthed by Aphrodite herself, so I always knew I’d grow up to be a goddess.
As she was done putting on her face, she turned around and had me zip up her dress. Then she went looking for her heels, wiggling her hips from side to side, as though she was already on the dance floor shimmying to merengue. She then leaned into the mirror, applying one final coat of that ruby-red lipstick that made her look like a dead ringer for Selena. She looked over at me and smiled, before grabbing my face and squeezing my cheeks together with one hand. My lips were pushed out like a blowfish, as she planted a kiss on my lips marking them with her lipstick. I quickly looked into the mirror and we both giggled. I pretended to rub it off but I was secretly rubbing it in with my finger. I loved looking at my lips with that tint of red. “Eres vida mía todo lo que tengo, el mar que me baña, la luz que me guía. Eres la morada que habito y si tú te vas ya no me queda nada, si tú te vas” My mother serenaded as she grabbed her purse and shimmied out the front door, “Junior no deje que tu hermano se quede viendo televisión y si les da hambre hay una pizza congelada en la nevera, cualquier cosa llama Dona Rosa, los quiero mucho.”…♪si tu te vas mi corazón, se morira♪
My brother and his friend Juanito were locked in Junior’s room playing Nintendo 64. After my parents left, I went back into their room and went through my mother’s closet. I placed an old t-shirt on my head to give myself the illusion of having beautiful, flowy, long hair, and reenacted my mother’s routine. I put on her makeup, one of her dresses and a pair of her heels. Even though none of it fit, wearing that dress and heels I felt like a movie star; I was Sofia Loren. I walked around my parents’ bedroom giving coquettish looks into the mirror and played hard to get with that man that existed only in my imagination. “Oh Pepito you’re too much,” I said, as I tossed my head back in a flirtatious giggle flipping the t-shirt around from side to side like I was in a Covergirl commercial. When suddenly I heard the front door opening and my father’s voice yelling “yo sé que la deje en el buró”. I quickly looked over and saw the wallet he was referring to, as my glee turned into terror almost instantaneously.
My father was a tall tough man, the definition of macho. He was strikingly handsome with very strong features, a square jaw that clenched in the heat of anger and thick, bushy, expressive eyebrows that almost merged, like Frida Kahlo’s. Just by looking at my father’s eyebrows you would know whether he was confused, wary, sad, or livid; at this moment he was all of these but one emotion would rule supreme. My father ruled with an iron fist and just like a dictator crushed anyone who questioned his authority. My mother obeyed him, as she was raised and had vowed to do. Junior worshipped him. I feared him and kept out of his way as much as possible.
I quickly kicked off my mother’s heels under the bed and pulled off the t-shirt from my head, but the dress and makeup wouldn’t come off as swiftly. I began to panic when I heard the door to my parents’ room creek open. What should I do? Where should I go? An overwhelming sense of terror came over me rendering me paralyzed. My eyes began to water as my father walked into the room and almost instantly unhinged his jaw.
As my eyes met the burning gaze of my father I could see the disappointment and anger in his eyes. I tried to say something but my mouth was so dry all I could do was stand there, immobile, with tears streaming down my face. After what seemed like an eternity my father yelled out to my mother “Luisa ven acá, mira a tu hijo, ¡tu hijo es una marica!” Rage swiftly triumphed over my father’s disappointment as his mouth came to rest into a hard line. I still didn’t quite know what marica meant, but at that moment I knew whatever it was it was something to be ashamed of. As my mom rushed into the house my father took off his belt. He grabbed me by the collar of my mother’s blue church dress and tossed me onto their bed. He gripped his belt with his right hand and turned the buckle to face my back. As I laid on the bed clutching handfuls of comforter waiting for the buckle to make contact with my skin, I could hear sobs from my mother yelling “Ramón déjalo, muchos niños hacen eso”. My father backhanded my mother with his left hand “es tu culpa que sea asi” he swung his right arm down and SNAP! The air from my lungs escaped me.
That first time the buckle hit my back stayed with me for a long time. It was the worst beating I’ve ever received, with each blow my caramel complexion began to take on a much more blistering red as lines like a highway overpass began to make their imprint into my skin. The faint giggles of Junior and Juanito could be heard in the background while my father yelled out “¿tú quieres ser marica? te voy a enseñar lo que le pasa a los maricas”. I don’t remember how long it lasted or even when it ended. All I remember was my father throwing the belt at me, exhausted, as he spat on me in disgust, para que aprendas.
Deep down my father knew I was always different but he pretended otherwise, tú sabes, uno no puede tapar el cielo con la mano. That night gave my father a reason to unleash what he had suppressed for so long: all those moments he had slapped my wrist and told me “no aguantes la mano asi”, the moments he said “deja de estar camindo de esa manera”. All the moments where the true me would slip out for all the world to see came to ahead on that warm summer night when my father came face to face with his greatest fear; he could no longer ignore what he already believed in his heart to be true: que el hijo de Don Ramón es un maricón.
Our relationship would never be the same. I knew my father didn’t love me, I could feel his distain every time I passed him. “No le haga caso” my mother would say “tú sabe cómo él es”. But I knew I wasn’t loved, I was tolerated, endured, something to be put up with until I was old enough to be disposed of.
That day became a turning moment in my quest for self-realization and forever altered my perception of my mother. Up until then I viewed her as strong and powerful. But that day the same woman that dominated a room and flirted her way out of countless driving tickets became docile, passive, and obedient when I needed her the most. That day I realized she was another one of my father’s possessions, a trophy he wore on his arm when he went out, something other men gawked at and wanted, like a new car, but just like a new car it was only new to the passerby, the owner had already grown use to it and no longer tended to it like he once did. That day I saw; painfully I realized that as much my mother embodied everything about the woman I wanted to grow up to be, I also never wanted to live my life under the hand of a man, or, at least, not one like my father. I wanted to be a free woman, a woman of my own creation and choices, free to make my own decisions and mistakes. In that moment many things suddenly made sense. I remembered that every time I asked my mother for permission she would tell me “pregúntaselo a tu papá”. She wasn’t just asking me to ask him, she was asking him for permission through me. Hell no! I said to myself that is not the kind of woman I’m going to be.
After that day I knew that the protection of my mother had limits; she could and would only do so much. If I was to grow up to be the woman I knew myself to be, it would be a journey I would have to travel on my own. The pain in my back told me it was not going to be easy, but my lips, still red with my mother’s bright, ruby-red lipstick that not even father nor my tears could erase, told me it was going to be worth it.