by Maria Prada
They rode unicycles and spoke in tongues. Day after day I watched them whiz past me across the campus cobblestones, precariously teetering on the edge of their saddles yet still somehow holding themselves upright. There were about 500 of them and they referred to themselves as PKs (pastor’s kids). They were the University’s elite and they knew it. During chapel they sang praise songs, raised their hands in the air and spoke in tongues as the Holy Spirit filled them. I watched them from my pew in the back and wondered what it felt like to be one of them, to know I was God’s daughter with a spot in Heaven, even for just a day. But despite all my baptisms and prayers, I had been there for months and still not received the gift of the Spirit.
Two years later nothing had changed. I was still Spirit-less and officially labeled a sinner. I accepted the role of a sinner like an actor takes on a character. I cut class, didn’t follow the dress code and snuck onto the men’s side of campus. On weekends I did what sinners did: danced to secular music, kissed strange men and drank alcohol.
Repent, you must repent, the PKs said when they saw my sins exposed on Facebook. I laughed and un-friended them, on Facebook that is, because in real life we were never really friends. One day as I was walking to class one of the unicyclists fell on the ground. He landed on his back and I laughed, not because he was hurt but because it was nice to know even PKs fell down.
My third year, I was moved to what was coined as Jezebel Hall to correct my behavior. It was there that I met Bethanie and we instantly became friends. She smoked clove cigarettes and had wild, curly hair. Ironically, her father was the pastor of a mega-church in New Jersey which automatically made her a PK, but she was different from the others. She didn’t ride a unicycle or speak in tongues. She even skipped chapel every day.
Where do you go instead of chapel? I asked.
I drive to the lake and smoke. It’s better than any kind of sermon, she said. One chapel morning, I joined her. We sat on top of a weathered blanket and watched the sun rise over Lake Hollingsworth. We threw bits of bread into the water hoping to attract ducks – or even gators. As the sun rose above the horizon I lied down and closed my eyes. The sun cast warm rays against my face and a sense of euphoria filled me. I imagined the PKs in chapel, their eyes closed like mine, raising their hands and singing worship songs. I felt remarkably happy and wondered if at that very moment the PKs were being filled with the Spirit and felt just as good as I did.