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

August 26, 2008
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 478 comments. Post your own now!

Lillie M. said...
Feb. 17, 2012 at 2:14 am
So. Heart-wrenchingly. Beautiful. Unfortunately, this is how the real world really is.
firecleansed said...
Feb. 3, 2012 at 9:37 am
Great article that so much unfortunate truth in it.
otherpoet said...
Jan. 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm
Wow. So inspirational. You've done an amazing job at capturing your emotions. You should be happy, because even though you believe your sweater didn't make a difference, it showed that girl someone out there cares. That is worth the world. Great job, on both your piece and your actions.
TerraRocks replied...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm
i totally agree with you, and the person below this :D
IWillDream54 said...
Jan. 13, 2012 at 8:29 am
This is incredible. You definately grasped my exact thoughts and feelings about "good deeds." The majority of the time, you do something good and noone notices or nothing comes of it. I also agree with you when you say that things don't turn out like in the movies, because life isn't one. You are obviously a good person, becasue I've seen things like this before and done what everyone does: turn your head and pretend that you didn't notice. This inspired me, ans you are an amazing writer. Keep i... (more »)
haggai said...
Jan. 10, 2012 at 3:07 am
wow thi is quite a masterpiece
Ahmad-Mobeen said...
Jan. 4, 2012 at 2:08 am
Amazing! I'm speechless! It's very well written!
publicdomain said...
Jan. 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm
Amazing article. Super sad but know that no good deed goes unnoticed you did a good thing and you should be proud.
leafy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm
Don't give up hope on humanity...
itszappy said...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm
I love this piece. You captured the sadness and bitterness beautifully. I really felt like I was in the story. This is probably one of, if not, my favorite story on teen ink. Just wonderful. Keep up the great work. :)
kairi.kaylyn replied...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm
I loved this! It was well writen and I loved the ending.
purple0528 replied...
Nov. 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm
Wow! This is amazing! It really opens your eyes to the people around you
Lady-Milano said...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:22 am
amazing article. poverty always breaks my heart
JesusLuver22 said...
Oct. 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm
I want you to know that God is there for you He will never leave thee nor foresake thee He is an On Time God He may not come when you want him but He will be there right on time!
NYClove13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm
This is incredible, and so down to earth. You definitely earned a spot in the Teen Ink magazine!
Bookworm1998 said...
Oct. 8, 2011 at 10:26 am
This was absolutely amazing. There isn't much more to say than good on you for writing usch a beautifully honest piece. It totally deserved to be printed in the magazine.
B. said...
Oct. 5, 2011 at 9:35 pm
Love it it totally got to me and it opened my eyes just a little bit more to ehat i have and others dont and by being gratful i need to give to others i really love this artical!!! :)
amchaucer said...
Sept. 16, 2011 at 9:44 am
This piece is absolutly amazing. Chills ran through my spine and it was'nt from the cold. Bravo and keep up the great writing.
swcricket98 said...
Aug. 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm
This is probably the only piece of writing that has EVER given me goosebumps. I can't believe that in such a short article that I could achieve such emotion and thought. Bravo.
abnormal said...
Aug. 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm
Amazing, just, amazing.
Site Feedback