Agnishka by Gord MacDonald

I fell in love with a girl once. But then I saw she was not ordinary, and my love turned to another. She was an extraordinary girl though.

I met Asa at the hospital. Her deep brown eyes had a faraway gaze and she was sitting quietly in the corner outside the operating theatre. I was anxious. Granddad at the fragile age of 80 had been in an accident. He was riding his bike, and a car with a number plate of a foreign city swerved into him. They were young boys, my age it seems, but they drove off. A passer by was the one who brought him here. And his back seat soaked up granddad’s blood. There was a lot of blood. I guess he could have been dubbed saviour, he deserved to be called that. A sort of saviour he was.

It reminded me to drive safely. Consequences matter. And I need to think about them. These boys did not know that, maybe because they did not think about their grandfathers or how, if their grandfathers died, or suffered brain damage, how it will affect them. They did not did they, irresponsible fucks. I was angry when I met Asa. She knew.

“You might want to shed that anger and focus on good things,” she remarked from her little corner. I looked at her. I had just spoken to my lawyer, and she must have overheard the uncountable obscene words I had used. I don’t want her to think me as irresponsible and crude, especially since I found her very attractive. It was her eyes.

Deep, and dark, brown. Her hair was tucked nicely up in a bun and her face was kind. Very kind. I had only ever picked up angular face anorexics to date. They were my thing. She was different. My eyes followed the line of her lips and drifted to wonder what they would feel like on places I am ashamed to say. That was the thing with young hormones, your mind drifts. I turned away ashamed.

I sat down beside her and she asked. “Do you want your granddad to live?” What a silly question, of course I did. “Do you really? because God does not give people what they do not want, I don’t think.”

My forehead creased, I was young, twenties, and could think no deeper than my fresh new job and the corporate ladders I need to climb all set out before me, and models, of course, they were hot! God? Never even crossed my mind.

“What makes him think he’s entitled to take?” I said absently.

“Well who then are you going to ask for your granddad’s life?”

“Who?” I did not understand what it was she was talking about. My cellphone rang and I stood up to take it. When I got back to the seat she had stood up and walked off. I got to thinking about this God. Who will I be asking for? Do I need to ask? I guess if I wanted to do all I can to save his life I need to negotiate for it with the person who can control it. And I guess if it were not the devil I ask, it’d be God. So I tried for the first time to pray. And when I was done I saw her sit down, and she took my hand. Smooth hands.

But something happened when she took my hand. I saw granddad, and then I saw his head, his injury, that eight centimetre blood clot that sat at the bottom right quarter of his brain. I saw the doctors and then I saw him. I heard him speak.

“I need to get home,” he said. “My wife is waiting for me, she has been waiting for milk. What would she do without me?”

I saw two people beside him, and I saw him standing, talking, negotiating.

Then I saw great grandmother. His mother and he spoke to him.

“Mother, is it time for me to join you, I hope not. I really hope not.”

Great grandma had all the beauty of her youth back. None of the frailty, that has been shed. She carried the strength, the splendour of the stories I’ve been told. She shook her head gently and spoke softly.

“Life is as fragile as you think it is, and as resilient as you think it is.”

The world is full of cryptics I thought, do the dead all speak in code?

“You choose what you want, then you fight for it, you ask for it, and it will be given.”

I looked at her face, the gracious lady’s as she spoke. I knew her and I knew her well. She looked at me and nodded, and then she left him to negotiate with the two men. Asa watched and listened. I could not hear what was said, and I opened my eyes to look at Asa, whose eyes were still closed. She was still deep in there somewhere. I got up to leave, what I saw played before me over and over again that night and I hope that granddad did really want to live. At least for a while more. I really hoped that.

The next morning I went in and the doctors muttered something about strength. I knew he had won. He wanted to live. Now he just needed to fight, physically, against the pain. The things that had gone and make do with what he has left. He would not be woken until a day later so I left and there in the corner I saw Asa, smiling.

“He wants to wake,” she told me. “And that is good.”

“Do you want him to wake?”

I nodded adamantly. I understood what it was I was asking.

Asa had on a nurse’s uniform, something I never noticed before, and that was how I knew her name, from her name tag.

“Jesse,” I said, extending my hand. She shook it and nodded. Then she led me out of the ICU and told me to come back later in the afternoon. I did.

“What kind of name is Asa?”

“Originally? Hebrew, it was a boys’ name though.” She laughed.

Asa does not sound too masculine, not at all.

“What does it mean?”


I was enchanted by her. She was one of a kind so I waited around for her that afternoon when I visited. Granddad was still asleep, but he looked at peace. I felt better. I walked through the children’s ward upstairs because I heard she was on duty there that afternoon and I saw her through the glass screen cradling a baby, whispering in its ears.

I saw tears in her eyes and when she came out and spotted me I asked her.

“Is she dying?”

“She refuses to come alive.”


“Because her mother did not want her.”

I looked at Asa and searched her eyes. It was fierce, angry, and yet tender. Her eyes shot out a pang I felt in my belly. A pang of pain, a pang of disappointment. I felt sad.  And Asa, I knew was sadder. I followed her around, but she spoke no more that day. I took her home.

I drove off and found her wallet on the passenger seat, so I drove back towards the wooden house and walked to the door. The house was quiet, silent, and I knocked, but there was no reply. I opened the unlocked door and found her seated on her couch, asleep. I left the wallet on the table and walked out.

She greeted me as I walked out, with a smile. She was extraordinary, like literally.

“I thought you were asleep on the couch.”

She remained silent.

“Do you want to see something?” She asked. “I think you have to, it will help you.”

I followed her as she took my hand. And then I listened to her as she explained.

“Each night I carry home all the burdens of the sick within me. And that is why I always walk home silently. I cannot allow any of them burdens to escape. I keep it inside me until it eats at my flesh, and then when I get home I lay here, on this couch, and sleep.”

She stepped back into her body, and her body woke. I was cold. And a little in unbelief.

Her body smiled.

Then she spoke again.

“I need to leave to get more strength to do the same the next day. So I take a walk in the garden with He who named me. I eat and drink with him. And as I eat and drink with Him I tell Him of all the prayers I have heard, and the dead I have seen, the spirits that have asked for their lives again. I tell Him and He listens.

And then He would kiss me on the forehead and I would return to my body. Which would be healed, burdens lifted and I would wake ready for the next day.”

She turned to look at me and laughed at my creased forehead. “You would see, you would understand.”

The next day I saw her again in the corner. This time I spoke to granddad. He was still in sleep, but I spoke anyway. Tears ran down my cheeks as I spoke, and I heard his cry, he was in pain.

He is in pain, and yet he fought, I thought. For grandma. Grandma.

Asa saw my tears and came to stand by me. She held my hand.

Then I asked her for his injury to be removed. And she nodded.

She placed her hand gently on granddad, and tears filled her eyes.

That was the last I saw of her that day.

I thought of what she had told me the night before and drove to her home as if to hear it all again so I knew it was real. I walked into her sleeping.

Then I saw. Her head bled, her blood flowed.

“He will be alright.” She nodded and smiled as she passed me by. I was on my way to the car, and it was then I decided she was extraordinary.

Because I knew instantly.

He was alright. He was discharged and I never went back to that hospital again, so I never saw her again. But I do not know why I never lived the same way again.

I began climbing mountains.

We both did. He figured life was too valuable not to.