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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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Juicy said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 10:07 am
Wow dat is so sad,, how could dat happen to her dat poor gurl ii wish dat doesnt happen to nobody ii know
 
Fuba said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 9:48 am
This touched my heart. I will remember this forever. POOR GIRL. :(
 
Hello Kitty said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 9:46 am
This story is really sad , it really touched my heart . Poor girl .
 
JLSNGC99 said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 9:44 am
this story is sad and amazing it breaks my heart 2 hear this.
 
thelamb said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 9:30 am
this is a truely sad but inspirering story. it shows just how cruel society can be now a days. but, this young girl is a shining beckon of hope. if they're ae stil people out there like her, then not all i lost. i dont know if this story is true or not, but it really touched my heart
 
cammie replied...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 9:46 am
when i read this i began to cry. This story touched my heart.  I haven't realized how cruel the world is. This story truely inspired me.
 
t.i.m.n_w said...
Oct. 30, 2010 at 3:38 am
this is an amazing story, she would care, you did because it was right, the ones who passed where the ones who didn't want to see what happens in the real world. 
 
LexiB said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 11:17 am
I love this story! It brings poverety into the light and it's very realistic. Is it true or did you make it up?
 
avb407 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 11:52 am
This article is amazing. It reminds me of myself in a way because I'm loving and caring just like her. Also, the story has great details in it and is realistic.
 
JLET309 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 10:43 am
I think this article was brilliant. I like the way the author explained the story in such great details. I kept imagining the lady in the streets in my head. The great details made me feel like I was there in real life. I normally do not like stories like this, but this story moved me. It made me think of the people who are poor and do not have it as good as I do. I was touched by this piece, and I hope others can feel as I did when I read this.
 
shellbi123 said...
Oct. 28, 2010 at 7:33 am
this story is amazing,i  really like they way that you made it such an eye catcher.
 
BMC601 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm
The story was awesome. I like how descriptive you are and how you don't care if you make your audience cry or if you make them laugh. I hope that you come up with more stories because i enjoyed reading this. 
 
ksd603 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm
This is extremely good; you used vivid details and in-depth descriptions. The reader becomes transfixed from the beginning because as a writer, you depict scenes in a beautiful manner. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and I hope you continue to write because you are heartachingly good (:
 
Ashton W. said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm
This made me feel emotions. Those emotions are still a mystery to even me; the one who is feeling them. I didn't know whether to be sympathetic or angry or to cry. All these emotions spiraling around me have become one giant blur of words that no man could ever read. This made me feel emotions. I just don't know which ones.
 
104lmb said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 10:31 am
This is a great short story, and it is quite descriptive. It is obvious that you have experienced this firsthand, and it has affected you. I can picture everything you're saying. I've never lived in poverty, but through this story i can imagine what it is like.
 
knd071 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 9:16 am
I love this. Every single part of your story kept me wanting to read more. It's the type that makes me wonder if this was more than just a story, but a memory. I'm not sure if it is yours, or a version of what someone else has experienced. It's crushing when I'm reminded that experiences similar to this happen every day, though most don't show the affection your main character did. Keep writing, you are extremely good at it. 
 
Kml1012 L. said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 9:07 am
Wow, this story lights an entire new realization in me. I have never been in poverty, but I realized just how serious it is. The article is extremely descriptive. I was always wondering what would happen next. This is an amazing story and is an inspiration. 
 
ceb105 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 9:01 am
This is an inspiring, well-written story. It shows the truth of how doing a good deed doesn't change the entirety of the world. Doing what is thought as right doesn't always give that warm, fuzzing felling inside. I love how it shows the absurdity of perfect, heart-touching movie scenarios, and that they don't happen in reality.
 
KLR113 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 8:57 am
It is quite obvious from reading your story that you are familiar with poverty. The clarity of which you describe the sort of hopelessness this soul has reached makes it clear that you have experienced this or scene it close up before. Your opening sentence automatically draws me in. I love the symbolism and descriptive words you used, especially when you described the moment your favorite sweater if fluttering down upon her. Did this actually happen to you or was this something that you called ... (more »)
 
KRD108 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 8:54 am
This is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time.  The description was absolutely amazing!  After I finished, I could only wonder what would happen to the girl next.  I loved how the first paragraph told the middle of the story, and in the second paragraph you went back to the beginning.  It truly was a wonderful story to read.
 
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