OUR LAST DAY IN COLOR by Caroline Wampole

It was early fall in New York and I was visiting for the first time in ages and it felt like a holiday when I met you at your temp job on the twentieth floor, your coworkers clustering around while you showed me off—“Look, my little sister!”—and then pulled me, giggling, into the elevator, and down, down, into the deep subway, and all the way up to the Bronx, where you said you were hungry so we stopped at a bakery to buy donuts and you ordered the cream-filled glazed and I ordered the plain (and I thought of how as kids you always got the creamy rich desserts and I got the dry crumbly ones, because I was afraid of being soft, like you, even though you were the one who led me around and figured out bus maps and turned the lights on when we came home from school), and the sun streaming through the bakery’s plate glass window made me feel warm and perfect like I did with you on winter afternoons at the laundromat back in our childhood in Cambridge where we sat on the ugly orange chairs reading library books, just the two of us, not needing anyone else—then I followed you out the bakery door, down the block and through the gates of the Botanical Garden where the noisy city transformed into a green and orange and red painting with a waterfall, old oak trees and a rose garden laid out in large squares like a children’s game come to life, and you talked about how you wanted to get back into theater while I took photos and said maybe I could move to New York and study art because anything seemed possible under that blue sky with the trees shimmering in the sunlight, even me moving to New York, even us being friends again.

This is the last day I remember you in color, before the gray closing of everything—the baby coming and your husband moving you far away, and the letters and phone calls and silences, mostly the silences, that stretched for weeks and months and years until I finally stopped answering questions from people about how you were, and I stopped asking too—but in the photograph, you are still in that day at the Botanical Garden, leaning forward to smell a pink rose, pretty in your pageboy haircut and red lipstick and blue silk jacket you found at a thrift store, smiling with the dimples I used to make fun of but that made you the prettier one, and I am still with you under that sky, near those trees from two hundred years ago, and when you grab my hand to lead me across the bridge with the old water wheel, I will forget all the awful times we were left alone without parents without help without anybody—all that will collapse and slide into the rushing water, to be carried away downstream forever, because you will turn to me and say, “Let’s be sisterly.”

Photo by Ryan Somma, used and adapted under CC.