Three Encounters with God — Johannes Punkt

I don’t believe. I asked to survive the night.


He kept blessing me. He wouldn’t stop blessing me. The front of my shirt was soaked through with holy water when they wrestled him to the ground. The same words, over and over. I don’t know Italian, so I cannot tell you what he said, but it was a blessing. We’ve got it from here, they told me, and his fingers must have hurt from the way they pried his vice grip open. I could see them put the bottle in a plastic bag like it was hazardous material. I looked down at my shirt. We’ve got it from here, you can go now. They’d got him sitting up, in trying to talk to him, but he would only stare at me. The one of them who was more tired, her eyes were violets, talked in rhythm with him. Counterspells. The other one tried to stand between us. In the end I took the name of God in my mouth, but with someone else’s tongue; though I never uttered it, just spoke around it like a landmine. Bless you.


He always plays the same song, with little variation. Wordless. Every day he sits where the tunnel ends, trying to extract warmth from the underground and sunlight from the sky, and his accordion breathes in and out. I don’t know if he has any musical background, and I don’t know his language. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say hello to him. Sometimes I wave. He has a curly beard, people will place water bottles next to him and on hot days he pours some of it over his face so droplets catch in his beard. It sounds like the kind of song he had heard in the background of his life, but on another instrument. And when I meet the asphalt I will steal a tuba, to make a living in another city playing that song for strangers. It’s hard to focus on him, not because of anything supernatural, just because he’s destitute. The thoughts I had about him were little pauses between breaths, sometimes I’d hear someone humming that song without knowing where it came from until the next day and until the tunnel. One day there was a woman next to him, singing, divine. I don’t know if they knew each other. I don’t know what language that was. I don’t know what she looked like.

Johannes Punkt, whose first language is Swedish, hides his accent by trying to talk in all other accents simultaneously. @johannespunkt

Image: In Spiritum Sanctum, © Serge Melki, Creative Commons