The story is gay, the emotions it stirs universal ...
My Own Little Prince
by Tim Salyers
Once upon a time, as these stories usually begin, I had a little Prince. His name was Patrick and he was from France. He was my best friend in the whole world and looking back, I loved him so. I was 21, and we met in Heaven. Well, when I say we met in Heaven, I should clarify a bit as Heaven is a nightclub in London, where I was working. Not too many people can say they worked in Heaven, but I can. It is located under Charing Cross station. To get to it you have to climb many different sets of stairs, otherwise known as the Stairway to Heaven. The frosted glass counters were all lit from underneath so to give a celestial glow to all who went there. I was eating at the bar and drinking a pint and I looked across the oval shaped bar and there he was, this little prince. His hair was dark and curly like a little cherub and the lighting made his tanned olive skin come alive. He was really quite short perhaps 5’6” at most. But boy could he fill a room with his presence…We spoke and well we became fast friends.
Weeks went by and every day we would go to a museum or an art gallery. Patrick began waiting tables at a restaurant down the street from Heaven, Le Jardin de Gourmet. Every night after work we would go down to the local pub and drink a few pints and discuss philosophy or important works of art in a museum we had just been to. Sometimes if we had the next day off we would crash at my place or his and we’d get up early and go to a flea market such as Portobello. Life was good, then.
But Patrick was also kind of too perfect. I put him on a pedestal so to speak. Everything he did he did with such grace and ease. Girls swooned around him, in fact everyone did. If he made dinner even the table was neatly arranged and the soufflé was served hot and never fell. He was taught to excel in all that was French. Ahh, my little Prince.
More weeks went by and as Xmas came upon us I wondered what on Earth to buy him for Xmas. What could I possibly give him that could equal or show the amount of appreciation I felt for him? He had taught me French and how to cook and so much about art and great books to read. I felt bewildered by it all. One night after a few pints he told me he was going home to France for Xmas and oddly, I felt like life had been sucked away from me. I never imagined he would go away for a week but of course he would be spending it with his family. I couldn’t afford to go home to the states so I stayed in the bedsit and nursed an exceedingly bad cold. Late Xmas night as I was finished taking a hot bath and drinking a Lemsip there was a knock at the door. I opened the door to find Patrick his curly brown hair wet from the rainy cold night. My Little Prince had decided to come back early. He had brought all these homemade Xmas treats like fois gras and meringues his mom had made for their holiday. And a Xmas gift for me.
I had been brought up with really good manners but I never have known anyone who knew how to treat people better than Patrick. It tore him apart to think of me alone in a foreign country on Xmas. Slowly he unpacked bottles of this and boxes of that. I tried to imagine how he could have carried all this from the airport! After our late night dinner he handed me a wrapped box that he had cut out little pictures of the little prince and pasted it to. I was kind of well embarrassed by how much effort he had put into it. I opened the oblong box and inside was a plane ticket to Toulouse, France from London. I was entirely overwhelmed by the gift. I felt as though surely I couldn’t accept such a gift. And this is what he said in his heavy French accent, "Tim, if you do not accept this gift then you will offend me. Little Princes do not like to be offended. If you do offend them then they will surely leave.” And with that it was settled. Embarrassingly, He opened my gift of a razor made from Lucite that he had said he liked on one of our many art gallery trips.
April came and our weekend trip to Toulouse was only days away. Patrick came over to my bedsit and said he had something to show me. He took off his shirt and his tanned shoulders revealed something new. It was a tattoo of The Little Prince exactly as you see on the cover of the book. He had had it done because he loved the book so. I had never read it before though I was familiar with the artwork. I told him it suited him perfectly, which it really did. If Patrick had blond hair you would say it was him exactly.
That weekend we flew to Toulouse passports in hand and looking back it was all such a whirlwind . We stayed at a couple’s home that Patrick had grown up with. In the morning they delivered bowls of lattes to each of us. We walked around the beautiful town and dined in little known bistros known for their great cassoulet or having an unusual wine list. The entire weekend was devoted to tables of food and endless conversation. After the meal we would drink dessert wine known as Muscat. Then barrels of espresso.
Eventually, Monday morning came and we flew back to London. First Patrick went through customs and then Immigration. The officer looked at my passport and told me he could not let me enter the country as my visa was about to expire. I couldn’t believe it! I had never thought to get my visa renewed. I pleaded with him and after hours of discussion it was decided that they would keep my passport and I had 24 hours to collect my belongings. During this time, Patrick had been held on the other side of the immigration line and was resisting and struggling trying to get back through. He became quite upset that they would not let him back through to get to me. Almost to the point of violence with the immigration officer. As I looked over to him his eyes were full of tears like a little Prince who had had his beloved rose taken away. I was again truly astonished by his sense of Loyalty and brotherhood to me. As bad as the whole mess was it somehow made me feel good deep inside to know someone cared so much for me. I begged the officers to let me have a few minutes with my little prince to explain what was happening. They agreed and I told Patrick to go home and as soon as I was finished I would take a cab straight over. Several hours later I arrived at Patrick’s home in Canary Wharf in the Docklands. I tried to console him, but his sadness had built into an inconsolable fear. Unfortunately, he would barely speak to me so upset he was that I had to fly home the next morning. I promise to find a job right away and fly back as soon as I could.
Once I was back in the states I lived with my parents and began saving up to get back to London and my little Prince. By the summer’s end and several letters and pictures of the Little Prince back and forth I was ready to fly back over the great pond to England. Late one night my sister Heather had gotten a call. The call was from the family of Patrick’s and he was very ill. They were desperately trying to get a hold of me as Patrick was begging for me from his hospital bed. Bewildered, My sister simply hung up the phone. I wish I could understand more or why she would do that but this she won’t elaborate on. I wasn’t even made aware of this phone call until months later.
I tried to phone Patrick unbeknownst to what was happening and I couldn’t ever get a hold of him. Ever. I thought as soon as I flew over I would find him in the local pub or at his home. But this was not to be. Days turned into weeks and weeks to months. I was walking down the street towards the tube station and I ran into someone Patrick had worked with at Le Jardin De Gourmet…
And the news came. There on the street with the rain falling down on us both she told me that Patrick had committed suicide. She told me in the same way you tell someone they just missed the bus. With no real care only an annoying and trivial half- interest…