Updated: Jan 18, 2021
She called me Prince Charming.
Who really understands why kids think the way they do? Kristina had just landed a job as a governess for a precocious two-and-a-half year old, and she had locked herself out of the family’s home. She needed to borrow my car but, since it held no car seat, and her new charge needed to stay with me.
I don’t believe in divine intervention, but that day is almost enough to once again make me into a man of faith. I didn’t have a clue how to keep her entertained. So while Kristina spent an eternity finding her spare keys, I introduced this pretty girl to our plants, our sculptures, and my six siblings by way of thick photo albums. And she laughed and hugged me and asked questions like she was my very own child.
I was smitten.
When Kristina and E left that morning, I heard a question, clear through the clutter of the city.
“Quisina, was that Prince Charming?”
My dear friend, a long way from becoming my wife, loved the humor.
“Oh yes,” she said. “That really was Prince Charming.”
In that very instance, I felt my heart burst into a thousand pieces, and then coalesce into something stronger.
And so I became Prince Charming, though it was the farthest thing from the truth. As princes go, I was battered and broken, hard and cynical. A dozen years of daily migraines had knocked the love from me, and I was nothing so much as a tough, empty husk.
But she pulled me out of myself, still alive. Kristina would bring her by as often as she could manage, and we had many adventures, both within the castle and without. My siblings were elevated to nobility, and I slowly saw Kristina for the person she truly is, the kindest and most gracious woman I can imagine.
No need to regale you with endless stories, but I soon came to understand that the only thing worse than the life I was living was giving up on that life, and the two people I loved most. But my second truth is that was magical, the way their smiles and laughter could smooth my rough edges, and break down the pain so it lost its hold over me. I will never forget Hurricane Juan and how it destroyed my city. Yet it forced to take time off, my caregiving duties temporarily relieved, and I found myself feeling pure, crystalline joy with my two girls—singing Raffi songs and eating takeaway.
I know it now. My two girls saved my life.
A great deal of time has passed, yet these blessed feelings remain, untouched by time. E is now studying science at Queens, has grown way too fast, and I love her younger brother and sister Sadie with all that fervor. The best part of me was saved, and now I have a chance to put things right.
But in looking forward, I often find myself looking back. And sometimes, on days like today, I would give all that I am just to hear her call me Prince Charming again.