As we’d already paid for the house, it didn’t really matter what Franyo thought. What mattered was Werner’s two-sidedness, yet another stain in the darkening fabric of our marriage. The house, a row cottage on a small street in West Hampstead, cost $20,000 in 1973. When it sold after Werner’s death in 2010, it was worth well over a million. Tiny little threadbare house on a grey treeless street, it didn’t look like much when we moved in. But Werner’s highly trained eye turned it into a place of elegance and beauty. Black lacquer dining table, Bauhaus type chairs, Moorish screens, touches everywhere of red and jade. One of the upstairs rooms served as a workroom and repository for his many boxes of treasures. There was a little patch of garden in the back, just outside the kitchen, where Jofka took naps in her pram no matter what the weather. I had a desk in the bedroom. I’d begun to write again, another book with Werner, this time a history of psychics.
As I loved reading about metaphysics and the occult, this was a little more up my alley. By now Jofka was weaned. At a year old, she was a dark-haired, dark-eyed adorable baby. Werner of course had totally warmed to her, but he had some pretty weird ideas about childrearing, another source of trouble in the marriage. Another was that, along with writing, I’d begun to drink again. After eighteen months’ abstinence due to pregnancy and nursing, my tolerance had dropped. A little bit would make me sloppy, and I could tell the disease (though I didn’t call it that yet) had progressed. And then, too… well I was back to smoking cigarettes. A few years later I would joke that I left Werner to fulfill my destiny as an alcoholic. But in 1974, with a jealous husband watching over me, it was still early days.
Several times a week I’d go to the Society for Psychical Research in central London to use their library. This was a fascinating place. The books were all downstairs. Upstairs were the offices of psychics and mediums. A male secretary would book appointments in a booming voice. “Yes, hallo? Four of you to see Mr. Smith? Well, he could do tomorrow just after tea.”
It occurred to me that I myself should book an appointment. Things were steadily going downhill with Werner. Silence, moping, the usual, but his low-grade scorn and guilt-tripping tactics were hitting me harder. On my way home from the library, I’d stop off at the pub. And since, if I had one drink I had to have another, I’d stop at the off-license, too, and buy a bottle, which I’d hide under the kitchen sink.
The psychic they booked me with was a man I’d never seen before. I remember him standing at the top of the stairs as I climbed up. He led me into an office and stared at my forehead the whole time he talked, a middle-aged man with an upper class accent. “Well, you’re an American, of course, I know that from your voice.” He rubbed his hands together as he spoke. “You have quite a gift as a writer, but my dear, you haven’t worked hard enough, have you, and in your case you’re going to have to work jolly hard to get where you want.” His voice softened. “You’re married to a man with an accent… Polish? Czech? I see him with a camera in his hands, a photographer, and a good one too, though he might be even better with films. Older than you are, and there’s another lady in his life, a blond woman.” He stopped for a moment. “And now I’ll tell you what you really need to know, and that is, the marriage won’t work. You’ll be returning to the States within a year.”
Whew! Right on all counts. (The blond woman was Trude, Werner’s previous girlfriend.) This was the first psychic I’d ever been to, so I was kind of shocked. Could he know who I was from my visits to the library? Unlikely – I just sat and read quietly, talking to no one, and in those pre-Internet days it would have been difficult to get information on people – my name at the time, Nicole Forman, certainly wouldn’t have rung any bells. The only thing he didn’t mention, perhaps out of politeness, was that I was a drunk. And that very hard times lay ahead.
**An episode from this memoir is published every Tuesday & Thursday for those following!
**Need to start at the beginning? Find Part 1 here!