Fernando keeps his head down.
“I only talk to people I know,” he says, “and I try not to draw attention. I don’t want to be a target.”
He stood on a half-empty 2 train this morning.
“One time I was sitting and some guy started yelling at me,” Fernando explains. “He said ‘You people take everything: All the jobs, the seats on the train, everything. Get the hell out.’
“So I got out of there,” Fernando continues, “and I don’t sit anymore.”
Fernando survives as an invisible person in a country where everyone is supposed to be equal. He came to New York from Mexico and through Austin, St. Louis, Chicago and Philadelphia.
“I worked my way here because I heard there were lots of jobs in New York,” Fernando says.
There have been too many to count.
“I started in a restaurant washing dishes and making deliveries,” Fernando says. “Then I worked in a warehouse and a factory. But they closed and I took a job in a grocery store taking care of the flowers and vegetables. I worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week and got paid $200.”
Things are better these days.
“I’m working two different construction jobs,” he says. “There’s lots of building going on and you can work every day if you want. I save some money and send the rest home to my family. Someday they’ll be able to come here, too.”
He is named after Fernando Valenzuela because he grew up in Etchohuaquila. His family listened on the radio to every game Valenzuela ever pitched and he used to dream of being a big leaguer.
“I’m a lefty like the great Fernando,” he says, “but I don’t have his stuff.”
He’s still a fan.
“I love the Yankees,” Fernando says. “Back home everyone knows the great Fernando and the great Yankees.
“I always tell my father to watch Andy Pettitte,” he continues. “I see the great Fernando in him.”
Men like Fernando are everything this county and this city are supposed to be about: honor and hard work and pride and determination and decency. But there are some who want to throw him out just like they want to throw out Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
“I hate what’s happening to them,” Fernando says. “They are great ballplayers and now they’re on a list because someone said something about them. And because some people want to judge them. That’s just not fair.”
Fair doesn’t have anything to do with it when you’re a target.
Fernando knows that better than most.