Beginning of Our Twenties

Asley Mueth

Finally legal. Carefree.
We shoot pool
Dance the night away
Indulge in whiskey shots, greasy fried food, and birthday cake.
We are finally twenty-one.
This freedom amounts to
A one bedroom apartment with a leaky faucet
Chipping shower tile and stained carpet
A 2003 Ford Escort and our empty pockets
And that sneaky, almost indescribable love,
We found in college.
We watch the local news at the emergency room.
While our fathers endure unbearable pain.
Their youth withers away – while losing weight
clumps of gray hair fall out.
Those reassuring smiles, confirm
that our fathers hide their pain within.
The cancer nurses, Alicia and Sarah,
speak to us in our panicked curiosity.
A sense of dread shifts between us.
Alica and Sarah look into our sunken eyes:
Alicia speaks to me first:
“Honey, it’s a miracle. Your father is stage one.
These tumors have grown for years.”
She wraps me into her arms
And shares my sigh of relief.
To my best friend Zoey, Sarah whispers:
“Honey, I’m sorry. Your father is stage four.”
She tenses and her voice breaks
As the tears cascade down her cheeks
Ashley Mueth
Beginning of Our Twenties
And she holds Zoey.
Zoey endures a depressing heaviness.
The realization that
Her father is dying
And she is only twenty-two.
And in the silence, I speak to God in prayer.
For the first time, I am fragile. I am no longer
the woman longing to be in Spain
studying international relations.
I take community college courses
with my best friend.
I am a cashier at a gas station.
We drive the country roads
And sing along to Bowling for Soup.
We hold hands and cry together.
During this sad summer,
I am greeted by a Vietnam Vet
that brings me a yellow sunflower.
Hope glistens in his eyes
his stories of his granddaughter
traveling the California coast
writing folk song lyrics
radiates within my soul.
In his smile I am reminded
of my late grandfather.
I become friends with a local.
She tells jokes and stories,
buys pounds of candy for her grandchildren,
and loves to smile everyday.
This summer comes to an end.
The summer of new beginnings.
Zoey is losing her father.
The fear dwells in our hearts.
Her father took us
camping and told us ghost stories.
We had smores and turkey chili
Her family became my family.
No longer teenagers
listening to 2010s pop
Riding our bikes around town.
Now that we are older,
I wonder,
As I graduate college
About the way it feels to have hope
In your fingers and fear in your heart
To travel and live on the road
To notice the world, but no longer hear
Those voices that laugh and sing
And tell us that it is past curfew.