Agatha and the Naming
By D Townes
“Agatha and the Naming” is the story of me, in a way trying to claim my place in my family’s history. While Agatha’s struggle is name-based, mine is skill- and future-based. She gets to meet her namesake while I still question mine.
Agatha Persephone Murrow believed that she didn’t deserve her name. It was a name that came along with a legacy that was passed down over centuries. The first Agatha, who was actually named Aga’ta, was a slave who emancipated herself in a manner similar to that of Frederick Douglass. Once free she did everything to remain free, and for that the family decided that she and her name would live on forever.
Agatha Persephone was her generation’s Agatha; a remnant of her ancestors, and for that Agatha would never forgive her family. With the name, came the crushing pressure, the pressure to be a martyr or a power of her own; as the fifth Agatha of her bloodline she had very little to work with. Agatha knew that she would never be good enough in her family’s eyes. All she had managed to attain in her 17 years of life were a few minor spelling bee wins. As well as a determination of what she would major in at Clark Atlanta, which she considered no small feat.
But the Murrow family didn’t think that they needed another science major, and that made Agatha, to their standards, undeserving of her name. Her passion for toxicology was deemed meaningless and with that her accomplishment was stripped away.
The previous Agatha was an accomplished writer, a MacArthur Genius Award winner, Pulitzer Prize winner, and let’s not forget botanist. The other Agatha helped save an endangered species; to the Murrows, Agatha Persephone’s awards were worthless.
It was a typical afternoon at home, Agatha had been avoiding questions from her parents about which organizations she would enroll in during her freshman year. When suddenly, Agatha asked her mother, “Ma, can I visit Grandpa?”
Her mother responded hastily, “Sure, leave.”
Agatha left, needing space, as she often did in these moments. She needed to speak to the only person who ever appreciated her accomplishments.
Her grandfather lived in South Carolina, in a small town that often served as her escape from reality.
She made her way to South Carolina, and eventually found herself standing in front of the white house with the dark green door. Worn down, but as strong as her grandfather, the house had seen hurricanes and tornadoes. The paint was chipped and worn but still the house stood. The door opened into the only place she considered to be her true home. She would always admit that her grandfather was a little racist. He hated everyone who wasn’t black but he had his “reasons.” Agatha respected him enough not to ask any questions.
Agatha knocked on the door and picked at her nail polish while she waited. It was about two minutes later that her grandfather opened the door with the type of smile that she never received from her parents.
“Come on in, babygirl,” he said, gesturing for her to enter.
They talked for hours, as they always did, and she vented her frustrations with family. She questioned how he, her mother’s biological father, could be part of the Murrow family.
Eventually, the witching hour drew near and she decided to rest. Her grandfather sent her to a room on the top floor, shrouded in darkness, but she still felt safe. From the single window in the room she could see a tree, which sat atop a hill.
She heard a noise—was it a scream?—and saw a flash of light, and suddenly she was no longer in the house, but in a field.
She looked at the hilltop where the tree was, and saw her Aga’ta, the original, the almighty.
“They lie, on me and my name,” she said.
“They shame me, you shame me,” she continued with rage in her eyes.
“You allow them to shame YOU, bearer of mine name,” she bellowed.
Agatha turned to her, despair in her voice, “I don’t understand. How do we shame you? Aga’ta, please tell me how to do right by you?”
Aga’ta looked at her sharply—it felt as though she had been sliced through with a sword. She felt the wind around her pick up as the tree swayed dangerously. The wind practically screamed her name.
“I died for nothing if you do not liberate yourself!” Aga’ta’s voice boomed, as her eyes glowed red; while the world dimmed the wind’s scream carried into a crescendo.
And then there was nothing.
D Townes is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Bronx, NY.