I stopped for coffee at the usual place in Florence. It was a gorgeous day all along the coast. People were out and about. So many people that all the tables in the shade were taken. I was concerned that I would not be able to handle the direct sun. Yes, all of the blazing 68 degree sun by the water!
I had no choice but to sit in the open with the sun's rays streaming on me as I sipped the coffee that was far tastier than the Starbucks one I had at Redding. The lemon bar was a wonderful accompaniment. No coffee without a snack. Ever. A few months ago, a colleague invited me to have coffee with him while we talked. I took a few cookies with me. "You are so European" he remarked. "They always eat something with coffee, not unlike us Americans."
While drinking coffee, I recalled the Neyveli heat of the childhood years. The heat and dust of Pattamadai during the summer holidays. The Madras heat later on. The Calcutta swelter. After all those years of experiencing the sun at its deadliest intensity, I now am unable to handle a few minutes of even the 68 degree sunny warmth.
Fortunately, I was done with the lemon bar and the coffee just as I started feeling the wetness of the sweat in my balding head. I headed to the car, and was off on the final leg of the long road trip.
A few minutes after reaching home, I stepped out to check the mail. "You are back" yelled out the neighbors from their porch.
As I started walking towards them, I heard her say, "you look tanned."
"Oh, can you tell? I was born tanned" I joked.
"You do. And stop making us jealous" she said.
The more I spend time outdoors, and the more I am out and about on sunny days, the more I get tanned. But then, every once in a while, a shirt with the top button off, or a tshirt that has a v-neck reveals a skin that is different. Which is what happened a few days before I set off on the road trip. Another neighbor walked over to say hello and noticed the un-tanned skin. "Sriram, you need to work on your tan" he joked. The friend immediately chimed in with "yes, he is two-toned."
I hope that I will continue to be two-toned for many more years, until that time comes. Because, if I start losing my tan, it will mean that I am not out and about, which can only be because of ill-health. I am already looking forward to more tanning experiences of life, including traveling to, and in, wherever the daughter lives.