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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doll_faced_angel said...
Nov. 30, 2010 at 10:04 am
Beautiful! Really shows the simplicity of a kind act!
joker007 said...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 10:06 pm
that is a shoker
xXxcutie21xXx said...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm
What an amazing thing you did for that girl! I'm sure she will always remember that sweater and what you did for her!! God Bless You!!
Brooklynn said...
Nov. 26, 2010 at 9:53 pm
what you did was amazing and maybe it wont effect the girl but it will always help you remember what good things you are capable of. I loved it
jalsaied This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm
This piece holds a certain air that impacts all who read it. Yet, no matter how many times we read it and contemplate it, we will never go through what you did.
foreverme143 said...
Nov. 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm
No matter how you felt at that time, what you did was compeletly amazing and i'm proud of you and i thought your story was written beautifully.
BrainsANDBeauty This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm
The content is wonderful, the writing style is very nice.  I loved the way you made the paragraphs choppy, yet it flowed neatly.  I don't think I would change anything.
beba baybee said...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

i wonder what it would feel like to be in that situation

but i love thiss !!

MangoMadness replied...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm
What, tammy? You think reaching into yourself and pulling up from its depths the ability to care and sacrifice something you love for someone you know may not even be greatly affected by your act, is stupid? You think caring enough to write an article for the whole world to see, in the hopes of increasing awareness to make the world and lives of theses people better, even though you don't have to, is stupid? Your crude and uncaring cold attitude sickens me.
Internationald4 said...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 6:25 am
I think, and so do about another 300 people who commented on this article, that what you did was an amazing thing to do, and maybe it won't help, but what if it does? You will probably never know, but don't always assume the worst. 
Not alone said...
Nov. 12, 2010 at 3:45 pm
Beautifully illistrated tale. Truly inspiring
TabbyC <3 XD said...
Nov. 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm
I love this story it has everything that someone would want to read like a good hook, interduction, body paragraphes, and conclusuion!
Caitlin D. said...
Nov. 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm
Your story is incredible. What you did was most definitely a good deed, the fact that you were humane enough to cover her. 
Ashlee said...
Nov. 5, 2010 at 1:57 pm
You never know what that girl will do. True, it shows the possiblity that what you suggest will most likely happen but don't beat yourself up for being kind to her. It is too often in the world that people would not even think of doing what you did. Your feelings definately came from God. Your are an amazing person for the small act of kindness you did that one day to that one single person. Thank you for that. People need to be more like you.
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.
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