You Can Never Be Too Careful
In the Letterzine, Brothers, Partners, and Friends, the participants were challenged to write a fictional scene around what would prompt Cecilia to have a discussion regarding safe sex with one, or both, of her sons.† You Can Never Be Too Careful is a result of that challenge.
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†††† A.J. Simon was crouched outside his mother's home early on a summer Saturday afternoon.† Glazing compound and various tools lay on the ground beside his tennis shoes.† A neighborhood baseball game had produced a wild pitch several days prior - a wild pitch that had broken one of Cecilia Simon's basement windows.† A nervous ten-year-old appeared shortly after the shattering of glass to stammer an apology of, "I...I'm really sorry about your window, Mrs. Simon.† My dad said to tell you we'll pay to have it fixed."
†††† Cecilia had smiled down at the handsome blond neighbor boy that day; a boy who vividly reminded her of another young blond who had once had quite a passion for baseball.†
†††† "That's okay, Lance.† I know it was just an accident," Cecilia had assured the scared youngster.† "I'm sure one of my sons can fix the window for me this weekend."
†††† Later that same afternoon Lance's father appeared to board up the opening his son's baseball had made, and to measure the window frame for a new pane of glass.
†††† Cecilia stopped by her sons' office two days later, relating the incident to them and getting a promise from A.J. to come by on Saturday and insert the pane Lance's father had dropped off the previous evening.
†††† The summer sun now burned hot on the back of A.J.'s neck and bare legs as he went about his task.† He wiped his putty covered hands on a rag before picking up the new piece of glass and fitting it in the wooden frame.† The distant hum of a lawn mower and the shouts of children playing somewhere in the neighborhood were A.J.'s only company on this quiet afternoon.† The blond man chuckled upon hearing, "Let's play baseball!" coming from a backyard several houses down.†
"I hope that ball doesn't come this way after all this work."
†††† "What was that, honey?"† Cecilia asked as she rounded the corner of the house.
†††† From his crouched position, A.J. turned.† He squinted at the sunshine that assaulted his eyes as he looked up at his mother.†† "Hi, Mom.† Did you get your errands run?"
†††† "Yes, I'm all done.† How are things going here?"
†††† A.J. turned back to the task at hand. "Fine.† I'm almost finished, though we might want to stand guard out here for a while.† I just heard your little ball players start the first inning."
†††† Cecilia chuckled.† "They remind me of another little ball player I once knew."
†††† A.J. chuckled as well, while carefully inspecting his handiwork.† "Yeah, I sure played my share of that game at one time."
†††† "More than your share, A.J.† On some days you'd disappear at eight o'clock in the morning and I wouldn't see you again until suppertime.† When I'd ask you what you'd been doing the answer was always the same..."
†††† "Playing baseball," A.J. said in unison with his mother.†
†††† "There was a time when I thought I might someday be a big league pitcher's mother," Cecilia reminisced.
†††† A.J. rose, wiping his hands on the rag a final time before stuffing it in the back pocket of his shorts.† He began picking up the tools he had been using and returning them to the toolbox.
"If you were a big league pitcher's mother you'd be living in high style, Mrs. Simon.† Instead, you have to settle for a son who works hard to squeeze out a living as a private eye."
†††† Cecilia smiled.† "Oh, I can't say that I have any regrets over that fact."
†††† A.J. winked and teased, "Really?† And here all this time I thought you hated the profession I've chosen."
†††† "I hate the dangers of the profession, A.J., not the profession itself.† If you must know the truth. I'm pretty proud of my two private eyes."
†††† "Even if I can't give you all the things I could have if I was making a million dollars a year as a major league player?"† A.J. asked with a smile as the two walked toward the garage.
†††† "I have everything I want, A.J.† Money can't buy happiness, you know.† I'm fortunate to have an abundance of that, and two healthy sons to share it with."
†††† "I guess that is a pretty good thing to have, huh?"
†††† "Yes, it is.† I believe it's one thing all of us take for granted," Cecilia replied before turning to enter the house.†† "Come on in when you're done in the garage.† I've got cold beer, juice, lemonade, and milk in the refrigerator. Take your pick."
†††† "A beer sounds good.† I'll be there in a few minutes," A.J. called as he disappeared into the garage.
†††† †After making a trip to the bathroom to wash his hands, A.J. sat down at his mother's kitchen table. He took several long swallows of the cold beer Cecilia handed him.
†††† "I think you sunburned the back of your neck," Cecilia observed, taking a seat at the table with a glass of lemonade.
A.J. reached up to rub a hand over the hot, red skin.† It was already growing sensitive to his touch.† "I guess you're right."
†††† "Make sure you put something on that when you get home.Ē
†††† A.J. smiled at this bit of mothering, but promised,† "I will."
†††† Mother and son shared companionable conversation over their cold drinks.† When A.J.'s can was empty, Cecilia asked, "Do you want another beer?† Or something else?"
†††† †A.J. rose from the table.†† "No thanks, Mom.† I should really get going.† I've got some things to get done before my date tonight."
†††† "Anyone I know?"
†††† "No, I don't think so.† She's employed at the company Rick and I just finished working for.† The place we were hired to investigate those thefts I was telling you about last week."
†††† "Oh, I see.† Have you been out with her before?"
†††† †A.J. walked over to dispose of the empty beer can in his mother's garbage container.†† "No, tonight's our first date."
†††† "A.J....Ē Cecilia began hesitantly.
†††† A.J. halted his progress for the door.† "Yes?"†
†††† "Would you come back over here and sit down for a minute,
please?† I'd...Iíd like to talk to you about something."
†††† "Sure, Mom," A.J. readily agreed, though somewhat puzzled by his mother's sudden uneasiness.
†††† A.J. returned to the seat he had just vacated.† "What do you need?"
†††† "I...I don't need anything. Cecilia said, focusing in on A.J.'s blue polo shirt. ďI'd just like...to talk to you about something,"
†††† A.J. took note of what he perceived to be apprehension on his mother's part.† "Mom?" he prompted, when she said no more.
†††† Cecilia looked into her son's face and smiled.† "I guess I thought we were done having these types of talks when you were thirteen.† I never expected to have to bring this up when you were thirty-six."
†††† A.J. had no idea as to what his mother was referring to.† "What talks?† You never expected to have to bring what up?"
†††† Cecilia decided to take the bull by the horns and get right to the point.† After all, it was rather silly of her to feel uneasy discussing this particular subject with her son. A subject she had discussed in great detail with him when he was twelve and thirteen years old.† And, without any discomfort or nervousness that she could recall.
†††† "Sex, A.J.† I never expected to be bringing the subject of sex up with my thirty-six year old son."
†††† "Okay, Mom. What kind of a joke are you and Rick pulling on me now?"†
†††† Cecilia chuckled.† "It's no joke, son.† And your brother doesn't have anything to do with it.† As a matter of fact, I intend to talk with him, too, sometime in the coming week."
†††† "Ooookay.† Sex.† What's the matter? Did you just discover you left out some important detail twenty five years ago?"
gave her son's arm a playful slap.†
"No, I didn't leave out any details.† I was very thorough."
†††† With a twinge of remembered discomfort behind his tone, A.J. ruefully agreed, "Yes, Mom, you were.† Very thorough."
†††† Cecilia gave a little laugh, recalling those conversations herself.† "I know it wasn't easy for you to have to listen to me on the subject of sex back then, A.J.† Had your father been living when you reached adolescence the job would have been his, just like it was with Rick.† But, he wasn't with us any longer by that time so it fell to me."
†††† A.J. shrugged.† "I didn't mind.† Well...maybe a little, but not too much."† The blond man gave his mother a charming smile.† "When my lady friends compliment me on my sensitive style, I tell them I have my mother to thank for that."
†††† Cecilia laughed once again at her son's teasing, and at the fact that there was probably a certain portion of truthfulness behind his words.
†††† A.J. didn't want to veer too far off the subject, so steered it back on course.† "So, Mom, what is it you want to talk about concerning sex?"
†††† "It's this, son.† In the past year or so there's been a lot of news in the paper and on TV about AIDS."
†††† "Yes, I know," the well-read, well-informed A.J. nodded.
†††† "I assume you've read the articles then? Followed the news stories?"
†††† "Sure.† I don't know very many people who haven't."
†††† "Do you consider yourself well-informed on the subject then, A.J.?"
†††† "Well...yes, I guess I do."
†††† "Well enough informed that you're practicing safe sex?"
†††† "Mother!" was all A.J. could respond with as he felt his face begin to flush.
†††† Cecilia didn't let A.J.'s indignant exclamation, or red face, stop her.†
"Ever since you and Rick have been grown men and left my home I've stayed out of your personal lives as much as possible, especially where your lady friends are concerned.† I've always trusted that your father and I did a good job of teaching you the importance of mutual respect and communication when it comes to a sexual relationship.† But now the rules are changing, A.J., and that scares me.† It's not just a matter of both partners being consenting adults, or the importance of birth control to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. There's a virus out there that kills people in a slow and painful way.† I just don't want you or Rick to be putting yourselves at risk for it without being aware of all the facts."
†††† "I'm aware of all the facts, Mom."
†††† "I hope so.† I've been reading more and more recently where these...experts say that the disease is rapidly moving out of the homosexual population, yet heterosexuals naively believe they're safe from it. †But doctors are finding out that's just not true.† I just want to know that my sons are aware of the facts and taking precautions."
†††† "Mom, I don't think you have anything to worry about," A.J. assured.
†††† "Don't I, A.J.?"† Cecilia questioned, angered by her son's patronizing tone.† "That's what Jane Moore thought, too, but she just found out she was wrong."
†††† "What do you mean?"
†††† "Sam, A.J.† Sam Moore has AIDS."
†††† "But what?† He's a strong, virile, heterosexual man?† Is that what you were going to say?† If you were, you'd be right.† He is.† But after his divorce two years ago he began playing the field in a very active way according to Jane.† Whether he slept with a woman who had at one time been with a bisexual man, or possibly had been a drug user, Sam doesn't know.† All he knows is that he has AIDS, A.J.†† He's Jane and Jim's only son, and he's got three children of his own, the youngest only four years old.† According to everything I've read, he'll never live to see that child reach adulthood.† Sam was what, two years ahead of you in school?"
†††† A.J. nodded, recalling the young man he had played on the high school baseball team with.† "He was voted the most popular kid in his senior class.† He always seemed to have the cutest girls hanging all over him."
†††† "He was a nice boy," Cecilia agreed.† "From what Jane has told me, Samís had a lot of successes in his life.† But now this...they just don't know what the future holds for him, honey, and they're scared.† Very scared."
†††† "Yeah...I suppose they are."
†††† "That's why I had to have this talk with you today.† I had to find out how aware of all the facts you are. Had to be assured that you're taking precautions.† I know for a while there, after Liz and you broke up..." Cecilia hesitated a moment, not wanting to intentionally hurt A.J. or resurface painful memories.† Liz had called off the couple's engagement only eight short months ago.† "After you and Liz went your separate ways, I know that you were playing the field pretty heavily, A.J."
†††† "Did Rick tell you--?"† A.J. began with anger.
†††† †"Rick didn't have to tell me anything, honey.† And he didn't.† I was around you enough to see it for myself.† My heavens A.J., you couldn't even remember half of those girls' names you were seeing."
†††† The blush that had long ago subsided returned in full force.† "Mom, I didn't..." A.J. began to deny, then thought better of it, knowing there was no use to be caught in an obvious lie.† "Okay, yes, I was seeing a...variety of women, but because of that fact...and because of all the reports concerning AIDS, I was practicing safe sex.† Still am."
†††† "You're protecting yourself, then?"† Cecilia clarified, but still reluctant to come right out and say what she wanted to know.
†††† A.J. made it easy for his mother.† "If you mean am I using condoms, then the answer is yes."
†††† "Good," Cecilia was relieved.† She reached over and laid a hand on her son's arm.† "I didn't mean to be nosey, or to pry into your personal business, honey.† That's the last thing I wanted to do, but after talking to Jane the other day...well, she just went to pieces when she was over here and I can't blame her.† I couldn't help but think of you and Rick after she left.† There were just some things I had to know."
†††† A.J. smiled.† "I understand, Mom.† And you don't have to apologize.† If you had asked me anything I didn't want to answer I would have told you so."
†††† "I was fairly confident of that fact," Cecilia winked.
†††† †A.J.'s smiled broadened and his eyes twinkled.† "So, you're going to have this same conversation with Rick in the near future, huh?"
†††† "Yes, as soon as I get a chance to see him alone."
†††† "I wish I could be a fly on the wall for that one, Mom.† I bet it'll be very interesting."
†††† "Knowing my Rick, I'm sure it will be," Cecilia agreed with a laugh.
†††† A.J. rose once again to leave.† He bent to kiss his mother on the cheek.† "I'd better get going."
†††† Cecilia returned the kiss.† "Okay, sweetheart.† Goodbye."
†††† "Bye," A.J. replied as he headed for the door.† He turned around as his hand reached for the knob. "Speaking of safe sex, Mom.† You are practicing it yourself, aren't you?" the man teased, yet with a hint of seriousness to his tone.
†††† Instead of the scolding he expected, what A.J. got in return was, "Don't worry about me, A.J.† I practice what I preach."
†††† "Oh...okay," was all A.J. could think to reply as his face once again began to take on a bright shade of red.
†††† His mother's laughter followed the bemused man out the door.† He shook his head in wonder of it all, realizing that he, as well, had never expected to have an in-depth discussion about sex with his mother at the age of thirty-six.† "This world is a strange place," A.J. muttered to himself before climbing in the Camaro and driving home.
†††† Five days after that Saturday conversation with his mother, A.J. Simon was busy at his desk in the Simon and Simon office.† A few minutes after nine Rick entered, hanging up his coat and hat, then tossing a bag of doughnuts on his brother's desk.† While the older man poured himself a cup of coffee, he and his brother exchanged the typical morning conversation of,† "Could you ever show up for work on time?" and, "No," and, "Did you see that Padres game last night?" and, "Yeah, I sure did.† That ninth inning was somethin' else, wasn't it?"
†††† Rick settled in behind his desk, taking some time to reacquaint himself with several files he had been looking through the previous afternoon.† He glanced over at A.J.† His younger brother was deeply engrossed in the bank statement he was balancing.†
†††† A.J.'s intense level of concentration didn't sway Rick any.†
†††† A.J. looked up from his work.† "What?"
†††† "Oh...never mind," Rick chickened out.
†††† "What?" A.J. insisted.
†††† "Come on, Rick, spit it out.† I don't have all day here."
†††† "Well...I had the strangest visit from Mom last night."
†††† "Oh really?"
†††† "Yeah.† Didn't she stop by your place too?"
†††† "She didn't?"†
†††† "No, should she have?"† A.J. questioned innocently.
†††† "I guess I just assumed she did."
†††† "You assumed wrong then," A.J. answered, pretending to return his attention to the checkbook.
†††† "Well, I'll be..."
†††† A.J. looked back up.† "What?† What are you so upset for?† What'd she want?"
†††† "She wanted....well, she wanted...well, to talk about sex, that's what she wanted."
†††† "And did she tell you everything you need to know?"
†††† "Very funny, A.J. Very funny.† She wanted to talk to me about AIDS, and from that look on your ugly mug I'd say you knew it all along."† Rick accused.
†††† A.J. laughed before admitting, "She talked to me on Saturday."
†††† "And you didn't tell me?"
†††† "I figured you deserved the same pleasure I derived from the whole conversation."
†††† "Thanks a lot.† See if I ever cover for you with Mom again."
†††† "You will," A.J. stated confidently.† "I've got too much blackmail material on you for you not to."
†††† "You've got a point there," Rick had to agree. "It's kinda weird, talkin' with Mom about sex at this late stage in the game."
†††† "She's just concerned.† You know Mom."
†††† "Yeah, I know.† I was okay with it and all, but still, it wasn't something I ever expected to be doing.† It was bad enough when I was sixteen and she gave me a serious lecture about unwanted pregnancies and birth control.† I remember I was shocked 'cause I honestly didn't know that Mom knew what rubbers were."
†††† A.J. grinned.† "Yeah, she's shocked me a time or two that way over the years, too."
†††† Rick shook his head.†† "You know, even though I'm forty-one years old, I still had a hard time saying the word condom in front of my mother.† As a matter of fact, I couldn't."
†††† "I did, but it wasn't easy.† It's not exactly a word I toss around a lot in casual conversation."
†††† "I should hope not," Rick teased with mock horror.
†††† A.J. didnít rise to the bait.† After a moment he said, "The world is really changing, Rick."
†††† Rick had no choice but to agree.† "Yeah, A.J., it is.† It sure is."
†††† All was quiet for a few minutes, the brothers having returned to their work.† Rick looked up from his files to break the silence with, "You are careful, aren't you?† I mean when it comes to sex and all."
†††† A.J. shot his brother a wilting look.
†††† "Well, geez, A.J., you gotta admit that it's just not the same as it was five or ten years ago.† The love 'em and leave 'em game just doesn't work any more.† There's new rules.† So are you?"
†††† "Am I what?"
†††† "Careful.† You know, about...well, about practicing safe sex."
†††† "You're beginning to sound like Mom."
†††† "I know, but--"
†††† A.J. took pity on his uncomfortable brother and put a halt to his teasing.† "Yes, Rick, I'm careful.† I'm aware of the facts.† Are you?"
†††† "Yeah, I'm careful.† I've kinda changed my style, so to speak."
†††† "So have I," A.J. admitted.
†††† "Good.† 'Cause you know, I guess we all have a tendency to think it can't happen to us, but it can.† I mean, it could if we're not careful."
†††† "Yes, it could. Therefore, be careful, big brother, it's a jungle out there."
†††† "Yeah, it sure is."
†††† "Now, can we drop this conversation please?† I have work to do.† Plus the fact that I don't care to talk about this particular subject with you, anymore than I cared to talk about it with Mom."
†††† "Why's that?† Afraid you might learn something from your big brother?"
†††† "Learn something?† This from the man who told me when I was fourteen that if a person had sex with a girl while standing on his head she wouldn't get pregnant."
†††† "It worked for Carlos."
†††† A.J. gave Rick a pained look.† "Rick, how many years of marriage did Carlos and Eva just celebrate in May?"
†††† "And how old is their son Miguel?"
†††† "I rest my case." ††
†††† "Okay, so one time it didn't work.† You know, they say no birth control is fool proof.† Accidents happen, mistakes are made."
†††† "Yeah, mistakes are made - like when you were born.† I wonder what type of birth control failed for Mom that time?"†
†††† "Ha. Ha.† You're real funny, wiseguy.† And here I was only worrin' about you.† See if I ever bring it up again."
†††† "I hope you don't.† But...thanks for being concerned."
†††† "Hey, no problem, A.J.† Like I said, these days a person can't be too careful."
†††† "No, I guess they can't be.† Even Mom's had to change her style."
†††† "Yes.† Or at least I assume so.† She assured me that she's practicing safe sex."
†††† "I'd prefer to think that she's practicing no sex," Rick said.† "Are you sure she meant it when she told you that?† Maybe she was kidding."
†††† "I don't think so, but I suppose it's a possibility."
†††† "I hope so. I just can't picture Mom...well, I can't really--"
†††† "Rick, she's an attractive, healthy, intelligent woman.† Dad's been gone for over twenty-five years now.† Do you really believe that in all this time Momís never..."
†††† "I'd like to think so."†
†††† "Well, you'd better think again because I have a feeling you're wrong."††† ††††
†††† Rick shook his head at all that had been revealed within his family in the past few days.† "I think for my own sake I'll go on pretendin' that Mom's a virgin."
†††† A.J. couldn't help but laugh at his brother.† When that laughter finally died down, Rick closed the subject once and for all.
"Regardless of who in this family is doing what, I guess I'm just glad that we're all beiní careful.† That's the main thing."
†††† A.J. agreed wholeheartedly before returning his attention to the checkbook.† "You're right.† That's the main thing.† Like you said before, in this day and age a person can never be too careful."†††
†††† "No, A.J., he can't be.†† He sure can't be," Rick confirmed before things turned back to business as usual in the Simon and Simon office.
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