Marianne Choquet

Tuberculosis

 


I walk through Linwood Cemetery as my mom has her hair done. It is cold and snowing and I think about the Mediterranean, where I lived. I stand in front of my grandparent’s grave and remember, and I imagine my mother’s funeral. She wants me to stay now, until she dies. The problem is she looks pretty good. She laughs when I tell her that. I invite her to the World Café, a modern place in the building that was a department store where I used to go with her and my grandmothers as a girl. I order cappuccino and croissants that taste almost French. This means more to me than it does to her. She gasps when I tell her the price. I ask if she has ever walked up 8th street, and she tells me stories I will never forget, then I take her to the assisted living center where she lives, to be on time for the Christmas picture. She looks so pretty, her white hair styled, bright, her blue eyes vivid. She tells the male manager to sit on her lap for the picture. I wish my dad could see her, and she him, then I turn away so she will not see the tears in my eyes. When I arrive at home, my French husband, who is in quarantine with tuberculosis, has red eyes, and is scratching an irritation on his chest, so I call the doctor, and we go, and the doctor says it is just dry skin and probably a sty. The expert in Iowa City doesn’t think he is contagious anymore, though he is still highly infected, and he has been isolated for almost one hundred days. “Let’s go to Galena” I say as we walk out of the clinic, “let’s get out of town.” We do, it is below zero, but I like the way Main Street feels like Europe. I like walking with him there. I buy an ornament for the tree, and then we drive to Chestnut Mountain as the sun sets over the rolling white hills. We sit in a corner in the Summit Café, far from people, watching skiers, and the fading light on the Mississippi, the cedars, the pines. We eat cheeseburgers, drink margaritas, remember skiing. On the way home I listen to messages from Mom, calls I did not answer. She is telling me to watch an Irish singer on the television, wondering where her hair comb is, where I am, what I am doing. I hear the loneliness. We drive there. My husband puts on the mask he must wear, and as we walk in, she looks up, hollow in the eyes, “I am so sad,” she grabs my husband’s hand, breaks into tears. “I miss Bob so much, I thought that might be him when you opened the door.” She wipes her tears, smiles like a toddler after comforting, “Oh my god, you’ve done me a world of good. Let’s play some cards.”

 

Marianne Choquet, holds a B.A. from the University of Iowa, a M.A. and PhD from the University of Barcelona, and a Certificat de Langue Française from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. She speaks English, French, and Spanish, and translates from Catalan.  She has translated poetry, fiction, and non/fiction. She is published in fiction and non-fiction. She has worked for The Iowa Review, Dino De Laurentiis Films, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Metro magazine in Chicago, The Barcelona Review and A Creativity Workshop in Barcelona and Paris.  A Spanish Ministry International Mobility Scholar, she was also a Visiting Scholar at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and an Erasmus Distinguished Foreign Visitor at the Josef Skvorecky Literary Academyin Prague, Czech Republic. She has lived and worked in Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, Austria, and Switzerland, and traveled extensively throughout the world. She has taught at the University of Barcelona, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Barcelona Study Center, the well-renowned Writing School (Escola d’Escriptura) at the Ateneu Barcelonès, and The University of Dubuque. Marianne currently teaches at The University of Wisconsin-Platteville.