The Mysteries of Suzanne: Werner Forman (Part 4)


I didn’t last long in college because one spring day, while I was home studying for finals, a very Eastern European-looking man showed up to photograph some pieces in my parents’ art collection. I fell in love on the spot. He had hair that winged out like a passionate orchestra conductor’s, bright blue eyes and Slavic cheekbones. He spoke practically no English. Movie-star handsome, he was well up in his forties, but what the hay? And he was Czech from Prague, which meant he lived behind the Iron Curtain. (My mother didn’t have the same problem with Czech Jews as she did with Polish, Russian and Romanian.)


PS Werner Photo

A piece from my parents’ collection


But I was a girl who liked challenges. That summer I ran into him again, in London, and based on the frisson of attraction between us, decided to take the term off, remaining in London and telling my parents a number of lies in the process. His name was Werner Forman. I neither returned to the States, nor to college. A year and a half later we were married.

Suzanne, meanwhile, still lived with my parents in the magical house on 19th Street. At this point she was my mother’s beautiful, well-coiffed best friend rather than my governess. But what a source of wonder and comfort she continued to be to me! She had taken care of me as a little girl, had seen me through disasters — teenage parties that got out of control, awful boyfriends, a near-fatal car crash, the early phase of my secret love affair with Werner Forman.


PS Vivi Nicky & Suzanne

From left: Vivi, Suzanne & Me


Werner was twenty-seven years older than I was. Dr. Pierre was thirty years older than Suzanne. Werner and I married without a word to anyone in a registry office in London, the Queen looking down at us from a portrait on the wall. Suzanne and Dr. Pierre married without fanfare in a registry office in Manhattan six months after his wife had died. But there the similarities stopped. Because while Suzanne married a man she truly loved and had waited for, I married … well, yes, for love … but principally for drama. All those secret phone calls to me in London from Werner behind the Iron Curtain; coded messages that I should meet him on such and such a day in Paris or Vienna or Amsterdam; and finally his escape from Czechoslovakia to the UK where he sought asylum. Since he was an extremely successful art photographer and most of his publishers were in London, his wish was granted. From that day forward, I had a sinking feeling that perhaps I’d made a mistake.


To be continued…

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