I WAS seven when I first met him. A fleck of dust besmeared his face; his curly, golden hair and stylish, scarlet ribbon bow tie were pictured to have been enslaved by the wind freely drifting from a corner of his planet scarcely bigger than himself; his pale green coat’s motif suggested it was of foreign origin – from another universe even; his vision casted into the unknown while standing upright next to what looked like a tiny, active volcano spewing smoke and fumes. He was frozen in time. Alone. On a book’s front cover.
Written by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the thin, minuscule book was titled, “The Little Prince.” The story was about a pilot who was forced to land in the Sahara and encountered a mysterious young boy who claimed to be an extraterrestrial prince.
I intently stared at the book’s cover and paused for its strangeness. Then, I swiped the dust covering the little prince’s face with a piece of cloth. His eyes and nose and lips were minute dots or lines delicately plotted on a peculiar canvas. In a blink, a sensation ran through my veins like a river flowing tranquilly. It was as if he invited me in for an adventure – a black hole that came with a cathartic magnificence for an absence that has been lurking inside. There’s no way I could resist that.
You have to understand that I was never a book reader then. Just like most of the children my age in our neighborhood, I didn’t find pleasure in discovering fictional worlds created by minds I knew nothing about.
When the little prince had decided to leave his tiny planet to comprehend what love is after a rose with four thorns baffled his consciousness, he met a king, a conceited man, a tippler, a businessman, a lamplighter, a geographer, a fox, and an aviator.
During his stay on the seventh planet, on Earth, with the aviator, his loyalty to the lone rose on his planet has always been there. His hope of coming back and correcting his wrong have always floated into the whole flow of the story which were so pure and innocent – acts that we sometimes associate with weakness.
The little prince made me realize that there’s beauty and romance and dignity in self-discovery. He taught me that the best things in life can never be brought by the acquisition of what we’ve been working hard for and of what we’re expecting understandably well, but the silent arrival of the unseen, yes, of the mysterious gifts we have been unknowingly longing for which sometimes reveal themselves with a fleck of dust from an untouched region in our hearts. Because ultimately, what is essential is invisible to the eyes.
Truth be told, similar to what happened in our first encounter, I wasn’t expecting to see him about a month ago. I went on a visit to a bookstore closest to my workplace to inquire about the availability of a George Saunders book titled, “Tenth of December.” But there he was, stationed at a shelf near the entrance; something has changed in him. He was much bigger, his golden, curly hair was more radiant, and the intensity of the color of his coat was finer. He looked a little bit different from the one I had met one afternoon when I was seven who vanished when we moved in to our current home. A metamorphosis at its absolute form.
And as I was about to leave the bookstore, the cashier with a smile on her face asked me, “Sir, how about this one?” She waved in the air a copy of “The Little Prince” I had placed close to her station. Then, strangely, I found myself giving a ready answer I’ll never forget.
“I’ll keep him this time.”