Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

A Different Souvenir This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
The man next to me is cradling his charred wrist, so blackened that I wonder how it is still attached to his arm. On my other side, a five-month-old baby has just been diagnosed with pneumonia. The curtains create a barrier between us; I only know about their ailments because the doctors are running back and forth, muttering to one another: “The boy in 3 is up to 104.7 – I want a bacterial blood count to rule out blood culture abnormalities. Order a barium swallow because there's a good chance of a hiatal hernia ….”

The doctor who hovers over my bed presses a stethoscope to my chest. I want to ask her what's wrong, but all I can think about is how cold the metal feels against my clammy skin. She pulls the stethoscope away and I'm consumed by a disquieting thought: If I open my mouth, the pain might come back.

I'm dehydrated, my stomach is yellow, and they cannot find a vein for an IV. The chaos around me drifts in and out of focus as I try to remember how I ended up here. I definitely went to history class this morning, and before that I ate breakfast, and slept through the night, and went to Nicaragua a few months ago.

The atmosphere around my bed changes abruptly as my mother explains this to the doctor. This obviously complicates things, opening the door to a variety of diseases that are usually not an issue in the United States.

But these Emergency Room doctors weren't there when the two-year-old girl stumbled barefoot over an unforgiving pathway of barbed wire, her wide brown eyes meeting mine as I watched in horror. I didn't consult our chaperones or give it a second thought. I could feel the wire pricking through the soles of my worn sneakers, but that pain was nothing compared to what these people suffered every day.

The girl I carried over the barbed wire was named Marciella, and it is her face that swims in my mind now. It's the first time I am distracted from the pain, and I am too numb to care about the diagnosis.

Hepatitis C, the doctors explain, and I wonder if I should feel relieved or panicked. I settle for indifference. I'm only 17, too young to be consumed by a disease. I will be fine in a month, two at the most, but none of that is important. Some people would try to explain why this happened, what they did wrong, all of the things they could have done to prevent it. Until that moment, I was one of those people too.

The feverish symphony of the Emergency Room grows softer as I drift into an uneasy sleep. The truth is, I don't know why this is happening. I could tell the doctors that I was cut by barbed wire in a third-world country, or that I bought ice cream from a Nicaraguan street vendor. None of that is very important though, because if I've learned anything, it's that situations like this have two options: I can torture myself trying to explain everything that's happened, or I can remember the way Marciella laughed, bandaged feet and all, as she played with my foreign red hair.

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 1 comment. Post your own now!

Black_Ink said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

This is nonfiction, so I'm guessing it really happened to you? 

There's not much to say besides that they way you presented the story was well-written(:

 
Site Feedback