When I first moved to San Francisco, things started off rather bizarre. On my first day there, I had barely moved in all the boxes from my car when I met one of my new flatmates. She was sitting in the kitchen eating steamed vegetables and what looked like the roots of other exotic vegetables. I started off with some standard introductory chatter: My name is Sobrina, and I’m your new roommate! I like to do this and this… oh, no, no thanks, I just ate, but those roots really do look delicious… I work here and commute to there…
In response, she, too, opened up by offering some basic starter information: she had lived in San Francisco for some time now, but really hadn’t been working or doing too much lately (since she had been sick and all), but she used to be a student. I offered some sympathy at hearing about her sickness and, thinking she had a common cold, offered her the advice that I often hear when I’m sick. I told her to drink lots of water and to get lots of rest. She graciously took my advice, but then went on to say that she had tried all that and none of it had worked. I nodded and asked, “Pretty bad cold, huh?” She said, “Well, no, not at all.” Which was how I would come to hear about the voices and the disturbing visions plaguing her.
After hearing the details of her sickness, I relayed the information to friends. When I would tell friends about it, they would all respond with something like: “Oh that’s terrible! She sounds like she has schizophrenia…” or “Just your luck to move in with a crazy!” But that wasn’t the terrible part that I had moved in with a mentally unstable person, the terrible part was that a piece of me believed her and feared that whatever had done it to her might do it to me.
The crazy in me can be traced back to my parents, who had raised me to believe in the occasional occurrence of a supernatural event. Sure, it’s rare, but it can happen. When I called to tell my parents about my roommate and her ailments, my dad said, “Yeah, maybe something happened in the house a long time ago and now it’s haunting her.” And my mom said, “You should find a Buddhist temple with monks to bless her.” This all translated to me as You better watch your back because some ghosts or that creepy cat that lives there might try to possess you while you’re living there. Anyway, the whole experience was odd, but save for one person’s obsession with her knives, the rest of the flatmates turned out to be more level-headed and grounded in this reality.
Last night Alan and I went to a contemporary Christian church service in the City, just a few blocks from the house I had subletted with the roommate living in another dimension. There was lots of singing and dancing (wild, twirling dancing in the aisles) and after a while some people would go to the front of the room and lay down on their stomachs, completely stretched out and comfortable looking, as if they were about to take a nap. How odd, I thought. When are they going to sit cross legged on the floor so they can start chanting with the monks in a language I don’t understand and lighting incense? Well, that part never came, it was more of the singing and dancing than anything else. But then, at the very end, the pastor asked people with ailments to come to the front of the room to receive prayer. Alan nearly had a panic attack thinking about going up there in front of all these people, but I just kept thinking these people were the ones doing flips and karate kicks while worshiping after all…
When we got up there, the congregation surrounded us. At first it was just me standing next to Alan and everyone else standing with other people. I started tapping people and asking them if they would pray for him since he had cancer.
What happened next is like something I would expect to see in a medicine man’s hut somewhere in a mountainous region on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Five… six… seven people laid their hands on Alan and then the pastor started speaking to the cancer itself, demanding that it be gone, that it had no place in Alan’s body. The other people mumbled things in different languages under their breath; one woman cried. I half expected him to convulse violently and fall to the floor, after which he would come to with a smile on his face, declaring he could feel no more pain and that he was cured. It turned out that he didn’t fall to the ground, but people asked him if he felt any differently afterward, to which he said he felt more relaxed. Later on the car ride home, he admitted he hadn’t felt much of anything.
I couldn’t believe in the dancing and the twirling and the laying down on the floor face down, but if there is anything I believe in, it would be supernatural healing done by spontaneous, intense prayer by seven strangers. I couldn’t wait to go home and call my parents to tell them how the ways of the old country are still being used right here today.