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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Garnet77 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 9:49 pm
It's just... this piece was just so well written, and so truthful. I don't know what else to say because it's simply amazing. Truly and really amazing.
Ellimee said...
Jul. 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm
I like how this is more realistic then smiles-a-mile. This is one of those sorrowful stories that doesn't need a happy ending to touch people everywhere. You should give advice to friends that like writing this stuff. You're incredibly convincing.
madrack said...
Jul. 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm
So cynical and abbrasive...but it's so true. The best personal stories are the ones that aren't sugar-coated. That's why this one was amazing.
Saffy96 said...
Jul. 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Wow... just wow. That probably sounds quite limp, especially for a would-be writer, but that's all I've got for you now.
k.s.h This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

This article... it's so true to what the real world is like, not like Lifetime movies like you were talking about.  I think the unhappy ending really made the story full of meaning.  I also like how the character always tries to deny it, but all along she has a caring, loving heart.

5 stars! *****

Dragonfly_Girl said...
Jun. 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm
So very ugly and yet so very beautiful. You are talented! This conveys emotion so perfectly, it is just devastating enough to make your heart ache, but is uplifting too. Knowing there are people like you out there makes the world a brighter place.
pLenTIFULmusic said...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm
Not only was this piece written beautifully, but fervently; a window into the mind of the modern day good Samaritan without the cupcake frosting.  My favorite line, "God have mercy on us both."  A simple reminder that none of us, however successful, hygienic, intelligent, or full of life we may be, is better than the other.    
freeflow23 said...
Jun. 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm
Wow! This is very beautiful! I can tell you have a natural talent. Keep writing and inspiring.
FictonFan101 said...
Jun. 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm
I loved this story. It gives people hope that their are still kind people out in this world.
MadiBird said...
May 29, 2011 at 9:06 am
This is an amazing article. It's well-written, truthful, and you seem to be able to display emotions with little effort. Reading this really moved me. Great job.
kitten678 said...
May 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm
This ancedote is a perfect example of how corrupt America has become. Drugs, prostitution, scandals...what has this world come to? I feel bad for the girl because no one that young and no one at all should be hooked on drugs. It's one of the Devil's mechanisms taunting mankind to sin even more. Great story! The language was vivid and made me feel as if I was there witnessing the scene!! :)
penwithapurpose said...
May 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm
This is one of the most moving and beautifully written pieces I've ever read. The world needs people like you who care about other people.  God bless you and the light in your soul.
Emilie123 said...
May 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm
I totally agree....this is beautiful and should be in the magazine :)
gucchi92 said...
May 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm
its really hard to keep faith at times like these..but you gotta keep doing ur bit.
nnc97 said...
Apr. 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm
We, as teens, take forgranted our lives. Though, they may not be perfect, or we may not be rich or famous, we have tendancies to forget about where we could be. Instead of helping others, we walk away. Maybe....time will change, and we will be able to at least attempt to help someone.
asiah said...
Apr. 29, 2011 at 8:35 am
i like this piece a lot. i feel like it conects to faith and how mant people feel day after day who live in those kinds of conditions and see those people each day but dont help.
MrsLadySlimShady said...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm
Wow this was great.
queentabbiecat99 replied...
Apr. 28, 2011 at 10:39 am
WOW and its so true thats whats so sad... no one would help a home less person... like this show on tv a homeless man was having a heart attack and no one helped but another little old homeless lady who made other people stop even when she was geting pushed and hurt to do so. they did it again with a clean old lady and a ton of people stoped this needs to stop
Hejlna said...
Apr. 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm
Wow, this article is something that makes me want to cry. I don't cry very easily either. Wow.
xxrockerxxcutiexxxx said...
Apr. 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm
dude that is f**kin epic..i luv it!!!
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