Last week the City finally sent workers to our building to trim the branches from a couple of trees that were touching our building. In my request I had asked them to trim them a couple of feet back from the building, but I guess the tree warden thought that some dead branches needed to be chopped off. When I came back from work and looked outside my windows, it was a pretty disappointing sight: it looked like the overzealous trimmer was on duty that day. Where did all the branches go? Where did all the green leaves go? After my initial shock, I noticed that something else was missing: the squirrel nest. There had been a squirrel nest on one of the trees since I had moved here five ears ago, and now it was gone. That nest had withstood storms, snow, wind, freezing cold, rain. But I suppose it stood no chance before the mighty power of the saw. Do animals have feelings? How did the squirrel feel when he saw his nest was gone? I will miss his silliness, I will miss seeing the nest always there defying any kind of weather.
On Monday at work we noticed that nobody picked up the trash. Usually, the cleaning guy, Fernando, goes around in every office and empties the trash bins. The Friday before he had mentioned that he was very busy, but then again he always was busy. Maybe he took Monday off, we speculated. On Tuesday another cleaning guy showed up. Perhaps Fernando is on vacation and he is his replacement, we thought. But Fernando hadn’t mentioned anything about vacation. Today, Wednesday, we got an email saying that Fernando most likely is not coming back and we should give the new guy a chance as he’s learning the ropes. What do you mean Fernando is not coming back, we asked. Why no explanation? What happened? Was he fired? Highly unlikely, since he was one of the most hard working guys I know. Did he quit? If he did, why so abruptly?
I was really curious to find out what happened. Not just to justify my curiosity, but to justify the need to know why a person I like is not around any more. I found out what happened, and, I suppose, Fernando, most likely, is not coming back. After a traffic stop Fernando was found to be driving without a license. And I suppose without an ID. Fernando was an illegal immigrant, it turns out. He is now held in some detention center and will be deported to Brazil soon.
We all liked Fernando. Always working hard, even through high fever. Always with a smile, never a complaint. He worked every day from early in the morning to late into the night. Two to three jobs a day, cleaning offices, houses, doing landscaping. He only had Sundays off to play soccer or go to the beach. He was saving all his money and sending it back home to his village. His village was poor and he was helping build a school. He was fundraising for his project. I feel so stupid that I don’t remember where in Brazil his village is. I wish I had paid more attention. He is also a famous soccer commentator in Brazil, on radio and on the web. He was also going to start taking language lessons, to improve his broken English.
Fernando was funny. He would always look into my trash bin, and if he saw a candy or granola bar wrapper in there, he would say: “Don’t eat this. You get fat!” I would laugh hard when he said that. And I would say something like “But it is tiny!” At some point I started placing my candy trash in other people’s bins. One day I got back in my office, and he had collected all my wrappers from all the bins and put them on my desk. “I know what you doing! Don’t eat this! You get fat!” For Christmas, he gave me a present, a DVD. I thought it was going to be something like ‘How to lose 20 lbs in a week!’. It turned out it was a music DVD with a live Paula Fernandes show. She is a big Brazilian star. It was a nice gesture, and I was touched. I really was.
Another loss. So soon it feels. I hope the squirrel builds another nest on a healthier branch. And I hope Fernando back in Brazil accomplishes his dreams. I’m sure he’ll find a way. Fernando, we didn’t have the chance to say thank you, to say goodbye. So, thank you. We miss you, and we wish you the best. You deserve it. Goodbye.