Always Sunshine

Safra preferred the children’s sections of waiting rooms. They were often orange or yellow, had funny seating, and a range of wooden and cuddly toys. The adult sections were always so boring – full of old chairs, old magazines, and old people – and if you were visiting a medical professional, they generally made you feel worse. It had been a year since he’d last visited a doctor, and it was never something he looked forward to. But at least he was seeing Dr. Bungawalla – healer of his family for fifty years. Safra sat in the adult section, enviously watching the children playing.

As a boy he’d loved the sun and wished that there was “always sunshine”. You should be careful what you wish for! The world was now four degrees warmer, and there was lots more sunshine – most would say too much. Climate change had caused global upheavals, but for the owner of GPS: Gaia Power Systems, that hadn’t been a bad thing.

“Mr Safra?” the fake blonde receptionist called out. He walked over to the desk. “Would you please complete this form before seeing the doctor? It’s just lifestyle information for our metrics.”

“Is that you?” he said. “On the poster behind? What’s it for?”

“Oh, it’s a sponsored walk I do every year. We raise money for children’s charities, mainly for skin cancer.”

“That’s very good of you,” said Safra. “When’s the next one?”

“Next month we’re walking from Mt. Alba to Mt. Negra; that’s 100 km.”

“Wow! Put me down for a dollar-a-kilometre. Make sure you’re wearing plenty of sunscreen though. That will be a pretty hot haul.”

“Thank you Mr. Safra. That’s very kind of you. Now, if you wouldn’t mind completing the form, the doctor will see you shortly.”

Safra filled in the personal data and then began the travel section. There was never enough space. His work as an alternative energy specialist took him all over the world. He spent weeks on end in deserts during installation, and his larger projects required annual checks. This year he had already visited solar farms in Texas, Morocco, Arabia, and Tibet; places where there was “always sunshine”.

Someday he’d like to visit the Southern Wind Belt – joints like Congo, Brazil, and Indonesia – but with all their crazy storms – a hurricane here and tornado there – you were putting your life at risk. Those were adventures for men younger and braver than he.

There was always the option to explore the Northern Wind Belt – American East Coast, Central Europe, and Upper China – but what would he do there? Their populations had shifted, their monuments were crumbling, and infrastructure destroyed.

There were no opportunities in the Wind Belts for energy production; the elements were just too fierce. Maybe there would be stronger materials soon, and more robust systems, but for now GPS would stick with solar power in central deserts, and wind power in polar seas. Leave the hair-raising stuff to the kids, he thought.

He returned the completed form to the receptionist. “My, we are a world traveller,” she said. “We’re lucky to have you in Lucerne.”

“Well, even a salmon returns to its river once in its lifetime,” he said. “This is home.”

“I’ve been here for two years, Mr. Safra. I’ve never seen you before. You must be an extraordinarily healthy man. Good for you!”

“If I had seen you before,” he said. “I would also have remembered.” She blushed as he said this. “Miss…?”

Mrs.” She emphasized, and looked at him in a mock-stern manner. “Mrs. Bungawalla.”

“Mrs. Bungawalla! So Dr. Bungawalla is your…?”

`           “Dr. Bungawalla is my husband.”

Boy he’d kept that quiet, the old rascal. He was in his seventies, and she was in her – forties? Fifty, tops. Wasn’t this the fifth wife in as many decades? What was his secret? “How is the good Doctor?” he said to fill the silence.

“You can ask him yourself. He’s expecting you now.”

Safra felt foolish hitting on the doctor’s wife/receptionist. He wondered if she would tell her husband. He knocked on the door marked “Dr. A.K. Bungawalla” and entered upon hearing a muffled hailing. Dr. Bungawalla was a small, dark man with luminous skin, which absorbed and reflected all light in the room. Despite having treated Safra since boyhood, he maintained his professional air. “How can I help you, Mr. Safra?”

“I’ve got these strange blotches on my skin. I’m concerned it could be skin cancer. Can you please take a look at them?”

Dr. Bungawalla examined the blotches and said, “Nothing of concern.”

“My eyes have been hurting on the insides. I wonder if my retinas are burned.”

Dr. Bungawalla pulled Safra’s eyelids and peered in with a small torch. He said, “All quite normal.”

“Also I’m feeling feverish. Do men have menopause? I didn’t think so.”

Dr. Bungawalla said, “Well not quite, but tell me more.”

Safra told him about the hot flushes and panic attacks; the temper tantrums; the insomnia and self-loathing.

“Mr. Safra, it’s good that you came to see me about this. I am not able to help you personally, but can recommend a good psychotherapist. It’s a common complaint these days called “Oedipal Overheating”. As the world’s temperature continues to rise, people feel guilty about humanity’s part in climate change. They feel that they have caused their Mother, Earth, so much pain that they must punish themselves continuously. A few sessions of Alternative Therapy – to match your Alternative Energy; how’s that going by the way? – should do the trick.”

Safra told Dr. Bungawalla about GPS, then prepared to go.

“Wait! I have some good advice for you,” said Dr. Bungawalla. “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

“That’s very good. Is it yours?”

“If you were a lady, Mr. Safra, I’d say yes. But I will admit to you that those words are Mr. Whitman’s.”

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One Response to “Always Sunshine”

  1. Lovely five-star stuff. A note on physics though – can anything absorb and reflect at the same time?

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