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Unconscious This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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There was a dead girl in front of the library this morning. She was breathing, but she wasn’t alive. Whatever existence she’d had during her few years – I calculated she was around 13 – certainly wasn’t life. She was tossed carelessly on the trash-­littered sidewalk in front of a boarded-up doorway, drugged and utterly unconscious of the world around her. The filth and stench of the city were caked into her skin. She seemed part of the garbage she was ­lying in.

My home in Medellín, Colombia, has a lot of poverty. I’m used to seeing dirty, starving children begging in the streets, unkempt old men sleeping ­under newspapers, and hopeless teen­agers forgetting their pain in glue and needles.

But this … this was different.

The girl’s clothes were pulled high above her chest, ugly testimony to what had been done to her the night before. Person after person walked by. Boys leered. Children gaped and were pulled away by mothers who wrinkled their noses and quickened their pace. Not once did I see a trace of caring.

I knelt down and shook her gently.

She stirred and turned her head to me, and a grimace flashed across her face. I realized she was no child. All concept of age was erased from my mind. Perhaps she was barely a teenager; perhaps she was as old as humanity.

“Señora,” I said softly. A fly alighted on her cracked lips, and I brushed it away. Still she did not wake. I don’t know why I cared. Certainly no one else did. But I couldn’t leave her like that. I couldn’t. I should cover her. I reached out to pull down her shirt but retracted my hand. I had no right to touch her.

I knew what I had to do.

Even as I pulled the sweater over my head, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give my favorite sweater to someone who would just sell it for drugs. I didn’t want to care. But it was too late. Once you open your eyes and see reality, you can’t close them again that easily. And even though I wished I didn’t care, I did. She was a girl, my sister in ­humanity, a person just like me. God have mercy on us both.

I draped the sweater over her. The pulsating noise of the street suddenly quieted. The outside world ceased to exist, and a deafening ­silence enveloped us. Time slowed. The moment seemed eternal. We were the only ones in the universe – just me, the girl, and the dark blue sweater fluttering down in slow motion.

I had the sensation you get when you pull the sheet over the face of a corpse and say, muerto esta. The last fold of cloth settled on the gray cement, and suddenly time was once again going. I heard the rushing cars at my back, felt the burning sun, and smelled the filth. Nothing had changed.

I got up too quickly, nearly losing my balance. I needed to get away.

“La felicito,” an old man, who had apparently been watching me, said in congratulations. “Is it a little girl? So sad, so sad. What a shame.”

“Yeah … I don’t know,” I mumbled, hurrying away, horribly embarrassed that I’d been seen. Supposedly, when you do a good deed, you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. But all I felt was a deep, aching sadness.

I used to believe those heart-warming stories about how people’s lives were changed by some small act of kindness. If this were one of those ­inspirational stories, years later we’d meet again. She would have risen from her poverty and pain, achieved success, and been converted to some nice religion. I’d be down about something, perhaps thinking that my life was worth nothing. On an impulse I’d step into a church and – voilà! – she’d be there giving her testimony about how she’d lived a totally empty and meaningless existence until her life had been changed by the act of a caring stranger who had covered her with a sweater.

And then I’d get up, with tears in my eyes, and shout, “I am that stranger!” And we’d hug and become best friends and I’d go home completely happy in the knowledge that my life had been good for something after all.

But this isn’t an inspirational story. The real world isn’t that nice. When the girl came out of her stupor, she probably wouldn’t even notice the sweater or wonder where it had come from. She’d use it to get more drugs. That night she would again sell her body and her soul, and the next day she would once more lie on the street with her shame open to the world. And my feeble act of caring would be worth nothing.

I headed down the street and sud­denly, to my disgust, found tears running down my face. I dashed them away, not knowing whether I was crying for that girl, my favorite sweater, or the fact that no one had cared.

I thought of the Jesus I’d been taught about in church. He would have cared, I think, if he’d been there. But he wasn’t there. I wished he were. It hurt.

People at church would tell me that he was there, that he’d cared through me.

I sighed. Maybe. Maybe.

But all the way home, the pain ­remained.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 464 comments. Post your own now!

Brandone said...
Nov. 13, 2009 at 10:38 am
This peice was very nice because it really went into the detail of things people do and see in everyday life. It was awesome!
 
Oliviaw said...
Nov. 9, 2009 at 5:20 pm
I feel you... get it... and understand.
 
nette2010 said...
Nov. 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm
wow this poem is so strong and you can relate to the authors pain
 
Adamrameau said...
Nov. 6, 2009 at 8:05 am
wow i just now noticed that people need to learn how to type better look at these comments its horrible
 
lakelandBoI #3 said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 10:55 am
this a great story ifeel beadd for herr
 
lakelandBoI #3 said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 10:52 am
I wonder what she look like
 
jodc said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 10:44 am
such a good story i loved it tells about the world around us
 
maragrace said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 6:45 pm
Incredible. This piece shines with the intensity of truth and reality. Amazingly honest writing. I really loved it. Keep writing.
 
TWEETY said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm
diz story wuz really sad cuz dim people aint even stop to help her.ino if dat wuz me i wud of helped her nd wud have at least help her out a lil bit enough to git her out of da streets.
 
mamita said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 1:50 pm
this was a good story and i will do the same thing help that girl out i cant under stand why her parents made her work they should work not that poor little girl suffer so much in the streets selling her body and soul which god made her by the way she is
 
Young=ZO3 said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm
i thynk da story was iight and str8 i thought it could have been a lil bit mo exclusive
bt really i was cool so c ya pece se ti zoe sa tap manda ya
 
$koobii doo said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm
man dis storii was sad butt i lyked it they didnt want to check on dat gurl.I really was upset wen dey said shii was dead bro dey shulda called da feds if they new shii was dead let dat wulda been mii dey wuldnt been lyvin
 
shumba as da kid said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 12:21 pm
bih......it waz a good story but it was also sad.........nobody did not even bother to help her that was messed bih so yea bih if it was me i would have helped he or took jer to the hospital or something but leave her that's a BIG NO NO i cant just cant do that so yea bih ''PEACE''
 
J@$MIN3 D@ B@DD3$T replied...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm
YEA IT WUZ A GOOD STORY AND I REALLY ENJOYED IT IF YOU ASK ME AND SHUMBA YOU DNT NEED TO USE BIH DAT MUCH DUCES X LOL SMILEY FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
ld the great said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm
wow!!!! she really save that girl but thats was a good thing to do cause the other people didnt even care THIS IS THE BEST STORY I HEARD
 
WatItDo said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm
i realy like this story. It is real and it could happin to someone else.
 
Lanah&Brookeh said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 11:15 am
I think this story is heart warming and kinda sad i kno if i saw someone like that i would like do something to help her
 
fiVE StAR[iSh] replied...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 11:16 am
ME 2 GURl...............
 
fiVE StAR[iSh] said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 11:10 am
diSz StORy WAS GUd.iENJOyd REAdN iT AlOt
 
Dat Chocoholic Girl said...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 11:07 am
OMG I really loved this article this the most heart moving article ive ever read i just really love it. i dont think that i have any think else to say because this really moved me. i feel really sorry for that girl and i hope she can do some thing with her life and change. I no that what the girl said about her feeling sad for her was just simpathie and she also nows that she did the right thing. when you love something or someone you have to think of them before your self.
 
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