After our trip to Morocco, I put together an outline and sample chapter for “Cities of a Thousand and One Nights,” and it was accepted. I need to say here that I wasn’t thrilled. I’d made up most of the “facts” on the assumption that I wouldn’t be taken seriously and that someone more erudite and experienced in ancient cultures would come along to write the thing. Wrong. Deals were made without my awareness. I was wined and dined by the Austrian editor, a hail-fellow-well-met sort of guy, though in the end the book was to be co-published and I was assigned an editor with New York Graphic Society. Really, the photos were where the money was — splendid, evocative, alluring: serious eye candy to anyone who wanted to pay a vicarious visit to the the kasbahs and bazaars of North Africa and the Middle East. The text was… well, just a necessity to give the book a scholarly twist.
I sure as hell wasn’t a scholar. A straight A student one term short of a Bachelor degree, yes. An art student who’d been accepted at three prestigious schools in London and said no to them because I needed freedom to travel. A new wife. An incipient drunk. My favorite times were when I was alone in the flat with a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of scotch and my typewriter. That’s why it was so convenient to me when my mother was visiting. She’d take Werner off my hands. It was quite incredible to watch. Franyo would come to London frequently, stay in a local hotel down the road in Swiss Cottage, and whisk Werner off to museums, galleries, antique shops on a daily basis. In a way, I think they were soul mates. Not romantically, obviously, though Franyo, stylish to begin with, always made sure her hair and makeup were perfect when Werner was around. They just seemed to speak the same language. Werner played this up, flirting and teasing her, which she loved. The arrangement suited my father, too, because Franyo was like a beautiful spoiled child who sucked up all the oxygen in a room. If you were with her, you had to cater to her whims.
Werner, her counterpart, was also a spoiled child, two divas together who somehow managed to be close friends without a total clash of egos. Over the next few years, even as my relationship with Werner deteriorated, they continued as close friends and companions. It was kind of crazy. We traveled with my parents, staying in deluxe hotels in places like Capri and the south of France. Because my father had managed to get Werner a green card, we also spent a lot of time in their house in New York. I thought this was normal, though now I know it kept me from growing up. I’d close myself off in a room to work on “Cities of a Thousand and One Nights,” which I hated and which was like pulling teeth, or on short stories, which I loved. I hung out with friends till all hours and Werner couldn’t berate me since he was busy with my mother. I had a few secret crushes. I read voraciously. But my life was not right, not as it should be, and I knew that. In some ways I felt as if I was doomed, a victim of my own foolish choices. Then one morning I woke up and found myself on a whole new course.
To be continued…