Dear Abby: Would you please give me your definition of maturity? Thank you in advance. -- Wondering in Woodbury
Dear Wondering: Maturity is the ability to control our impulses, to think beyond the moment, and consider how our words and our actions will affect ourselves and others before we act.
Summer was stalking up the Cohen’s paved front walkway in the eight a.m. California sunlight in old sneakers, jeans, and a grungy tee-shirt. Who was she trying to impress? Cohen? Yeah, right. She jabbed the doorbell with an angry index finger, realizing in retrospect she was lucky not to have broken a nail. She was examining her manicure when the door swung open, revealing a Ryan almost as disheveled as she was, comparatively speaking; he wore his hallmark wife beater under a gray zip-up hoodie and a pair of black sweatpants, his hair stood up at all angles, and the circles under his eyes matched the ones Summer had so artfully concealed on her own face, souvenirs of a sleepless night.
“Chino,” she acknowledged him coolly before pushing past him. “Where’s Cohen?”
“Sure, Summer, come on in. Make yourself at home. Can I get you a cup of co---”
“Where is Cohen?” she asked with more emphasis, attempting to dodge around Ryan to peer from the foyer into the living room and the game room.
“He’s in his room… Summer, wait.” Ryan moved around her, effectively positioning himself between Summer and the foot of the stairs and blocking her pathway up by leaning against the wall with one hand so that his body fully obstructed the staircase.
“What, does he have Anna up there?”
Ryan cracked a half-smile and Summer’s eyes flashed, angry. Chino’s half-smile was anybody else’s belly laugh and she was not trying to be funny.
“No… but I want to talk to you. I think you should give him another chance.”
“Haven’t you intervened enough on his behalf?” Summer cocked a hand on her hip.
“What were you going to talk to him about?”
“Is it any of your business?”
“He’s practically my brother, so yes, it is my business.”
“Rage blackouts, Chino.”
“I probably outweigh you by 100 pounds. What are you going to do to me?” Ryan smirked, stood fully, then leaned back against the wall this time with his shoulder.
Summer heaved a sigh. She wanted to wipe that expectant smirk right off Chino’s face. “You’re right. Talk.”
“What were you going to talk to Seth about?”
“That little bitch was going to pay because you do NOT drag your girlfriend to a party and let all your friends make fun of her and then go to Miami and lick whipped cream off some ho on national television and think she just wasn’t gonna see it.”
Ryan blinked. “Look, Summer, Seth didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Summer rolled her eyes, tossed her head and looked away. “Does he ever?”
“He just… doesn’t have a lot of common sense when it comes to what’s… stupid. I mean, growing up in Chino you kind of learn how not to attract unwanted attention from your mom’s drunk boyfriend. Not that you’re anything like my mom’s drunk boyfriend or Seth is anything like me… You just kind of develop a people sense or… something. Seth just… doesn’t have that.” Ryan threw his hands up helplessly.
“But it’s still no excuse. Maturity is defined as the ability to control our impulses, to think beyond the moment, and consider how our words and our actions will affect ourselves and others before we act. What?”
“Did you memorize that?” A flicker of amusement danced in Ryan’s eyes.
“I read it in Dear Abby. It stuck with me.”
“So anyway. Seth just doesn’t have it.”
“He has it some of the time. And do you really have it all the time?” Ryan crossed his arms
“No. But I’ve gained a lot more in the past eighteen months than he has, especially in the “others’ feelings” department.”
“Yeah, but you’ve also been in way fewer sticky situations than he has. It’s been easier for you.”
“He put himself there!”
“Has he explained exactly how he ended up on that TV show to you?”
“As if I’d let him make excuses,” Summer scoffed.
“That girl said she was going to use the money for her college funds, so her grandmother could pay for her medication.”
“Seth is just a fundamentally kind, if dense, person who doesn’t have the benefit of a whole lot of people skills that other people got by having friends when they were little kids because he… didn’t.”
“Yeah. But if I cut him slack for that, he’ll never learn.”
“Did he tell you we were going to Miami before we left?”
“Then he’s learning. You know why he just took off last summer?” Summer shot Ryan a look that clearly said ‘don’t go there,’ which Ryan ignored. “He was afraid that without me around, you’d ignore him, or worse, he just wouldn’t know what to do without me or Anna to constantly complain to or bounce ideas off of or get advice from.”
“He didn’t have to be so afraid.” Summer’s eyes were slowly filling with tears.
“Summer, you no less than five minutes ago threatened me with bodily harm. And with Seth you could probably succeed in carrying out your threats. He’s just… he’s in over his head, Summer. And I think you are too.”
“Damn right I am! I’m paying for his mistakes with my dignity and my… God, this is weird. I really didn’t do feelings before Cohen came along, like, ever. And I definitely never thought I’d be talking about them with, like, you. I mean, no offense or anything. But I mean, I used to do happy, sad, indifferent, rage blackout… that was about it. But Cohen does things do me. Weird Coheny things.”
“I think he does that to all of us. It’s part of his charm… who he is.”
“Yeah. Like you brood, he’s… Seth.”
“Which is why you should forgive him.”
Summer crossed her arms and looked away. She exhaled, and seemed to shrink. “I just… he’s hurt me so many times before. He left for the summer on a tiny little fucking boat and all he left me was a note. Like I wasn’t even worth calling? Not to mention that supposedly I’ve been his dream for how many years now, but I’m not worth staying in Newport for? He says that he left because you were the only reason he had me, but you’re back and he’s not making any effort to keep me. He thinks he can screw up royally and then stand on a coffee cart and think everything’s going to be okay? If that’s the case, he’s got another thing coming. I love him, okay? But I can’t let myself get hurt again.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t even be having this conversation in the first place. I just know that you make Seth happier than anything. When he’s talking about you, his face just sort of lights up. You just have to understand that he’s not used to getting what he wants. And in the past, when he has gotten what he wanted, it was usually just a Playstation game or something. It wasn’t going to get up and walk away.”
Summer’s eyes were wide and remained fixed on a point to the left of Ryan’s head. Ryan’s eyes searched, looking for something, anything, as if the foyer contained a clue.
Summer shook her head slightly. “I can’t deal with this right now.”
“Not choosing is making a choice, too. Remember last year? Chrismukkah? New Year’s?”
Summer closed her eyes, reeling. “Oh, God.” Then her cheeks heated, eyes flashing with new resolve. “Okay. I think you’re gonna have to let me go upstairs now.”
“I can’t say I didn’t try,” Ryan mumbled, mostly to himself, as he moved aside.
Summer was on the second step when she turned and said, “Hey, Ryan? Thanks. And if you ever need to talk…”
His expression softened and the hint of a smile played on his lips. “Yeah, no problem. And I know.”
Seth and Captain Oats were having a serious heart-to-heart when both began to hear the voices drifting up from the foyer, rising in pitch and volume, but falling again before they reached the point at which Seth would be able to make out the words. It was this frustrating uncertainty that made Seth’s heart beat a little faster when the voices ceased and steps were heard on the staircase, why he fumbled with the plastic baggie containing the Froot Loops he liked to leave out for Captain Oats, and why he had to struggle to keep his voice even calling “Come in!” after the sharp knocks on the door he knew to be Summer.
Seth was prepared for the possibility that shiny, polished, valley-girl-bitch Summer in jeans and heels and straightened hair would come in and renounce him or inflict bodily harm or maybe break some of his Death Cab cds, just for spite, which would have been ok because it was all backed up on his computer anyway, or maybe that she would come in and call him an ass but tell him she loved him anyway. Actually, that last part he supposed was only wishful thinking.
Seth was caught entirely off-guard when the door swung open and steps were taken to reveal Summer clad in ratty jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers he was unaware she owned, with her hair up in a messy ponytail, wavy, frizzy, and unruly from the French braids she had sported during her workout session, which had lasted the better part of the night.
“Summer!” He jumped off his bed but nearly had to sit back down again from shock as she burst into tears. Instead, he wrapped her in his arms, mumbling into her hair “Shh, shhh, it’s okay,” all the while guiding them both back towards the bed.
She was cradled in her arms, her sobs subsiding, when she began to speak. “I’m so mad at you, Cohen, and I was really going to come over here and kick your ass and I couldn’t sleep at all last night and then Ryan stopped me and I love you so much and…”
“Whoa, there, Summer. Maybe you should leave the rambling to me. Now let’s start at the beginning.”
“I was so mad, Cohen! I couldn’t sleep all last night because I just kept thinking about how even when I do my damnedest not to let you bother me, you do, and you’re a stupid little bitch so I came over here but then Ryan basically made me realize that I’m not exactly perfect either--”
“Shut up, Seth. Anyway, Ryan basically made me realize how much I love you--”
“You really love me?”
“I really love you.”
“Really really really.”
“Well, good. ‘Cause I really, really, really love you too. And I‘m really really really gonna try to work this out.”
“And I’m really really really going to help you.”
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, but it was only relatively comfortable because Seth was scrawny and his legs were starting to go numb from supporting Summer’s weight. He remedied this by swiveling them both so that he was lying on his back with Summer curled up against his chest.
“So did you plan to come up here and just start crying?” Seth less than tactfully broke the silence.
“No, dumbass.” She swatted at him. “I planned to come up here and talk to you… and then do this.”
And she leaned up and kissed him, hard.