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

August 26, 2008
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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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Emmadilemma said...
Jan. 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm
Absoulutely amazing! If more people were like this we would have such a wonderful world!!! =)
Insight said...
Jan. 20, 2011 at 4:51 pm
This was an amazing story of reality. Not only the young girl,but of us as humans afraid to show compassion to another human being. Thank you for having the strenght and courage to give this girl dignity in spite of how she choose to live her life. I live by the rule to respect all because i at this moment i am blessed with a good life,but i dont know what the future holds and i would like to think that if i was down on my luck that someone would show me kindness as you did.
doubleS said...
Jan. 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Maybe it wasn't the fact that you are a good writer, though it was told quite well. But the fact it was just a real piece of life. When you wrote this maybe you didn't care that this would get published, but I think you cared people knew. It's stories like these that are some of the more important.
LimeGreenLVR said...
Jan. 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm
This story was amzing. Truly amazing. You have a beautiful and incredible talent. I hope you keep writing. :)
monpetitemouchou said...
Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm
Amazing. Absolutely amazing. You have a great gift with words and I hope you never stop writing :)
infinity again said...
Jan. 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm
And I don't think its a "maybe".  I am very sure you were God's instrument to help that girl.  In her drugged state, your act of kindness may have been impossible for her mind to comprehend -- but I am sure you touched her soul -- plus enlightened a lot of readers!  Isn't that great?!!
Infinity said...
Jan. 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm
The moment I started reading your article, I couldn't stop.  I guess that's because good writers have  good, radiant souls.  I hope you keep on helping.  And keep writing.  You don't stop being good just because a lot of people have stopped -- even if the one who stops being good is the very person you've helped.  You are a precious person and a most precious writer, too! 
MissDarkCross said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm
This was a very sweet article, the best one I have read on here also. :3 Well, written and the way your acts were so kind and genourous..this really needs to be known to people. People could careless about others, there only for themselves, and this shows how bad our worlds getting now a days :/  :3 Love your article..keep writing! XD
fallacy said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm
This is one of the best articles I've read on this site; you're a great writer and human being.
Chanchie said...
Jan. 14, 2011 at 9:33 am
Beautifully written. Upsetting but thought-provoking at the same time :)
rplove013 said...
Jan. 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

This was a great article. It made me tear up..You are a kind person and it is awful how people can just pass by like nothing is wrong. You are right about everything you said in this writing.

The world is cruel...but there are people like you who make it better.

Nicely written; I enjoyed reading this.

go_green100 said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm
The story is really very realistic. It's just awesome!
cheer4u said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm
wow you are such I kind person I wouldve did the same thing the story brought me 2 tears.
jameswritesinsecret said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 10:14 am
It alomst broght me to tears how people will just pass by a stanger as if they weren't there. When I read this story it really made me think of what I could do to create change in the world around me.
Risingsoul said...
Jan. 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm
Ghandi once said "Whatever you do in life will be insignifigant, but it is important that you do it."
RainyWriter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I love how this isn't one of those preachy philanthropist speeches. It handles the subject delicately and kindly, but gives the reader a much needed kick to reality.

I wonder where that girl is now. I'm glad you shared this with us.

anne.Brooke replied...
Jan. 10, 2011 at 1:08 am
Equus_Borealis89 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 11:09 am
thank you for sharing this with us. and thank you for sharing your soul with that girl. life is not fair. it never was, it never will be. but there is always a hope, with this little flame called compassion. and while it may or may not turn into a heartwarming story, compassion spreads, just like fire!!! your compassion spread to that old man. so thanks again.
Youngsurvivor said...
Dec. 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm
ohh my wat a story....and this is reality... it pains me to see wat ppl have become :(
vballchick14 said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm
i liked this story but i didnt really follow it very well
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