The Prince of Sweetfield Circle

Once when I was younger, and I knew much more than I do now,

I stopped in a shop on a street named Sweetfield Circle.

I saw the sign telling me there were sandwiches made by hand.

I was hungry, so I went in...

What happened next defies everything that is rational or logical. 

But when the mystery is great enough, we dare not disobey. 


Back then, same as now, I carry around whatever book I am reading.

And on a rainy day in 1991, there was a copy of The Little Prince stickin’ out of my jacket pocket. The rubber band that held it together showed the stubbornness of my devotion. And I noticed the man behind the counter smiling at my greedy need to open to a page. 

“What, ya reading there, son?” he asked as he folded the prosciutto into my sandwich. And I proudly showed him my copy of Exupery’s finely crafted tale. He could see I’d been cryin’. I wasn’t ashamed. You see I left my own flower behind just like the main guy in my book. I left my planet, too.  I was traveling you see and a long way from home. He could see that too.

I’d been out walkin in the city that day on accounta we had the day off.  No one goes to the carnival when it rains.  I was a barker in the carnival heading north into Canada. But our first spot, that’s what we called the towns we stopped in: spots, was in Yonkers, New York.

The man said, “My name is Frank and my dear sweet Yvette loved that book your holding more than any other one she owned.”  It was then that we exchanged a look, and I could see that he could see; not everyone can, you know. See, that is. But Frank the butcher of Sweetfield Circle saw me on that day and he told me the story of how he met his Yvette. And how that little book, The Little Prince, saved his life.  

You see Yvette had a dad that liked to drink.  Her dad’s devil made him something he shounta been and he broke that little girl’s heart once and for all, over and over.

Frank saw her the first time on a sweltering summer day on Sweetfield Circle. 1974. They were just kids around the time of dissectin’ frogs and awkward church dances. And Frank fell in love with Yvette who carried a paperback with a picture of a Prince. And love is a funny thing and Hurston is right how it takes the shape of the shore it meets. The shape of this couple’s shore was Sweetfield Circle.

Now, Yonkers, NY ain’t nowhere near the beach, and Frank’s sandwich shop is little more than a closet between a dry-cleaner and jeweler.

But we passed the time while I ate talking about our favorite lines or passages. He came over and pointed down to a page and quoted, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” And he told me about Yvette and the year of hospitals and doctors and how he cut off all his own hair. He told me about how he learned to value what was most essential. It is beneath the surface where things are most essential, not seen with the eye.

And I understood Frank.

I told him about my small planet and my own fair rose who had too much pride and how she forced me to leave because she had to play it safe, and she couldn’t get past what had been done to her so many dark aching days ago in the hot Texas sun. I told him how I did not know what love was back then and I didn’t understand that she perfumed my world, in spite of her always showing her useless thorns. I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I learned that I didn’t know it. 


And Frank understood me.


I finished my sandwich and was about to say my goodbye when Frank turned his sign around and asked me if I wouldn’t mind following him downstairs. He had something he wanted me to see. So, I did what I was told because when the mystery of a chance encounter is so great, we dare not disobey, that’s what Exupery says.

In the basement of the sandwich shop on Sweetfield Circle there is a library with two chairs and a lamp that no one knows about. It was there in that library that Frank told me about how his Yvette loved to read and how in the pages of those books she was safe and was free to explore and dream. In a turn of reciprocity, she showed Frank how to dream and at night when the lights went out in the shop above, Frank would take his place in the chair beside his love. And they would dream in silence and understanding with no need for any kind of show. Frank turned on the light and told me about the greatest love he’d ever known.

He handed me Yvette’s copy of the book she so loved with a cover so faded and pages dogeared and the rest held together by rubber bands, determination, and love: kinda like all our lives. We are held together by determination and a will to love.  Frank asked me to read his favorite page. It was the part where the pilot begs the prince not to go, but instead the little prince taught that pilot how to cure his sadness by associating the Prince’s unforgettable laughter with the stars in the night time sky.  That way each time the pilot looked at the stars twinkling he would hear his friend's laughter, and he would think of his friend and smile.

And so, in this basement library I watched as a man -- who might have been my father -- shed tears and smiled because he made an association that changed the course of his life forever. It was just a moment and in that deep mysterious moment Frank did not disobey. Because what is most essential is invisible to the eye.


Once when I was younger, and I knew much more than I do now,

I met a man who had his world changed and gave him permission to change mine. And even now in that library basement after the sign is turned around and the shop is dark and closed, there sits a man with a book and a light and the memory of silence and sounds. He hears his love and remembers his Yvette with a joy that is all his own.

So goes the tale of Frank and Yvette and a traveling pilgrim so far from his home.

So goes the tale of Sweetfield Circle and a mystery so great neither one of us dared disobey.

So goes the power of association and the paradox of gaining freedom by being tamed. 

So goes the Little Prince and how an end can help us begin again.


And I understood. And Frank understood. And it was enough.

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