People Can Be Good Sometimes


Our portero had kidney stones bad. We could see it in his face. In the way he cringed when he wasn’t supposed to.

He didn’t complain though. He bore his pain in silence. Fucking hero. His name was Arturo.

Ever since we lived in Villas del Country, Arturo was the one who opened the gates and let us in.

If we came in a car, he opened the gate to our carport.

We’d drive by him and watch him cringe as he closed the gate. He didn’t think we could see him.

If we came on foot, he opened the front gate by his little cubbyhole office and tried to hide the cringe.


It wasn’t pretty. His pain was universal. It didn’t let him smile.

But there was no such thing as health insurance for a portero in Barranquilla, Colombia. He didn’t have a doctor. He couldn’t afford shit.

His plan was to pass the stones. Every day he’d drink water and try to urinate and pass the stones.

Barely anything came out of his penis when he hung it over the toilet. Maybe a few drops. Maybe a few smatterings.

Every bit came with demonic screams.

We’d see him go into his little bedroom that doubled as a utility closet, his tail between his legs. He’d shut the door and try to stick to his plan.

But the kidney stones got to be so bad not even a drop would fall. Arturo would cry and then cringe away tears of pain, his bladder ready to burst.

Then he’d gasp and look at the tears that slid down his cheeks and want nothing in all the world except for his penis to work again.

“Clog my eyes, dear Lord, take away my tears, I don’t care. Just let me piss again, let me piss again You bastard!”

The feelings Arturo developed toward God and toward his penis weren’t healthy. His nose began to shrivel. He started turning into an onion.

To save him, my mother went around asking the other residents of Villas del Country for help. She couldn’t see Arturo like this anymore, especially not in the 20th century.

She knocked on everyone’s door and asked for a donation to help cure Arturo of his kidney stones, whatever they could give.

No one had to be coaxed too much. People can be good sometimes.

The operation happened early Saturday morning, when the gates of Villas del Country were least in need of a portero.

My mother drove him to the hospital and brought him back.

I opened the gate for them and watched Arturo drape his arm over my mother’s shoulders.

She walked him to his little bedroom and gave him a glass of water, in case he got thirsty.

Arturo called her a saint and went to sleep.

When she walked by his guardhouse the next morning, he hugged her and cried so much, his whole body heaved, and his lungs breathed their first sigh of relief.

But he had no tears.

January 20, 2011 3:52 pm

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