Lemons don’t taste the same now that you’re gone


Sue Heilman

Sofiya and I, two days into her stay in America.

It’s been only less than a month since you left; I feel like I haven’t seen you in a lifetime. 

It’s been long enough that I can decide that you’ve changed everything.

I make a mental list of everything you would love to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m living my life as two people because I can so vividly imagine what you would be thinking during certain moments. I’ve decided we need to spend years together, catching up and experiencing the things that you’ve missed so far.

The longer the list gets, the more ironic the short two weeks that we got together feel.

Us with some of your friends, on one of my favorite nights of my whole life.

I have so much more confidence in my place on earth now. If someone from a completely different world than me, someone as astounding as you are, could so convincingly seem to enjoy being around me, then maybe I have a reason to lift my head when I meet new people.

I now have an even stronger force pulling me to see the world. When before it was just photos of beautiful places that inspired my desire to go outside of my American bubble, I now have a first-hand interaction that has proved to me how small of a state I truly am in. 

Trees from your perspective.

You have made the comfort of my world feel so beautifully claustrophobic. 

I hope that if I give each stranger the trust that I could be as impacted by them as I am by you, each person will prove me right.”

My mom’s pancakes from your perspective.

I now, even more, trust everyone with my whole heart. I hope that if I give each stranger the trust that I could be as impacted by them as I am by you, each person will prove me right. No person, but you, has so vibrantly shown me how beautiful vulnerability is. 

A hallway I see everyday; this photo makes it feel different.
The art room from your perspective.

Each week I try to remind myself of the life lessons you provided me with, and each week I try to live as a kinder, more courteous, more curious version of myself. I always want to know that I am someone I would be proud to present to you when we see each other again. 

Above all, I think of your photography. You would take photos of classrooms, trees, roads—places I’ve seen over and over again and make them look magnificently special. I’ve tried to take photos as you do, and I’m terribly hopeless at it right now, but I hope that by the time we meet again I’ll have many that show the progress of my perspective. 

I don’t take our promise to each other lightly; it’s so astoundingly real to me. It’s something I know will happen, that I’ll see you again. I promise I’ll be different than I was when we first met, not only because of the inevitable time between our crossing paths but also because I dream to be as complete as I was when you were around all the time. 

With everything I could say, all the thank you’s I have for you, what I’ll say now is a thank you for making me feel like the art that is your photography—for making me feel like something special when normally I feel so mundane. 

And in your nature of easy awe, I’ll end my lemon and chocolate-coated sentences with the simple statement that I’m counting down the days until I can eat more desserts with you.