Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t need to write previously tense. I have to use the past tense not only because I’m writing concerning the past, but in addition because I’m writing about proper now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our expensive, lovely, superb, fantastic, sensible, sharp sister. Who’s now gone from this earth, and yet so very present. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I am unable to even consider I’m telling you this and you’re at the airport,” I felt the last second of my private stability tick tock away. In the next breath she instructed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound came out of me, and i cried, and that i didn’t care that others had been watching me as this sound got here out of me and that i cried. And I’ve been unstable ever since.
However this is not about me. It is about our girlfriend. I’m supposed to speak to the world what she meant to us. I don’t assume this is possible. She is – was – too too far past words. How am I to speak her love, expressed with a simple brush of cheek in opposition to cheek The delight in her smile, the way in which she gazed at our children, those Aisha, Rachel, and i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she loved so deeply simply because they, in fact, have been her youngsters, too How can I let you know, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying proper now as I sort this as a result of it hurts an excessive amount of to put in writing about her this manner
I do not assume I can communicate how she made us really feel. So, I’ll attempt to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and when we did it, and with whom. I’ll attempt to precise friendship that spanned over two a long time. That was supposed to last a lifetime.
As I pulled photos to go along with these phrases, I remembered how vibrant and lovely she at all times was. How it all got here collectively. I remembered the place it all started.
This is one reminiscence: We are at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a picket shack on the seaside. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie together on a bed and discuss. I remember feeling beautiful, with all of them, collectively like that, on this shack on the beach.
Nikki and Jane have run outdoors, via the parking lot, to the only visitor shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on chilly. Cinder blocks surround the pipe and attain up toward the open sky. We’ve all run to that shower for two weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise moment when it is simply too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but well earlier than it’s evening. When the sun is low however the air continues to be warm. That is the only time our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot as it blasts salt and sand from our pores and skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively and look ahead to them, and we talk. I don’t remember what we discuss. This was 22 years ago. I only remember the feeling. It’s warm and proper. It is gorgeous. We’re beautiful, all of us, collectively. We discuss and giggle but we’re quiet, too. For long stretches we simply lie there in the silence at dusk. We’re someplace between day and evening. We’re somewhere between woman and woman. It will last eternally, I think. That is sisterhood. I do know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Yes. These are my sisters.’
Many years later, Rachel could have a baby. She could have a girl. She’s going to title her Jamaica. She by no means has to explain to any of us why she chooses this name for her daughter.
On the return flight from the island, the aircraft shook and bounced and rattled, and I used to be large awake and in prayer. I was never good at flying. Erica reached out from her sleep, reached out from the folds of the blanket that was wrapped around her like a chrysalis. She reached out to hold my hand. She stored me safe like that.
And she kept me safe like this: I remember when I was about to leap on a moped with a good friend, and I used to be placing on my really cute shoes, and she stated, “Eisa, are you going on Gree’s moped tonight ” And that i mentioned yeah and kept chatting to Aisha and she said, “Eisa, put in your sneakers.” And I was like no way, and i kept chatting. And she said, “Eisa, you needn’t ride on a moped with sandals.” And i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she said actually quick and a bit louder, “Because anything could happen on that bike and you have to be ready and you can’t do shit in those sandals.” And I was like, no matter Erica. And she got real low and stated, “Eisa, I would like you to wear your sneakers.” And i looked her in the attention and said no. And she stamped her foot and stated, “Eisa, take these sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And that i bought actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing happened.
I have an image of Gree and me on the moped that night. I’m smiling and safe. I’m additionally wearing my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, exhibiting Aisha and me her room, her friends, her life there.
During that same trip to Europe, Erica and i danced at a live performance at Hammersmith Odeon. We had been at Jazz to Pop to Soul. Or Jazz to Soul to Hip Hop. Or something like that. This was 21 years in the past. Anyway, we had been backstage with the Hip Hop groups who carried out that night, and I was starving. I had not eaten a lot since touchdown at Gatwick, racing to the resort to fulfill Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was eating oranges. There was a bowl of oranges within the greenroom, and I was consuming orange after orange after orange. So I remember these oranges. And partying with my woman. Both memories are candy.
I remember walking by means of the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to purchase those prairie print dresses we really appeared pretty good in.
I remember sitting in her dorm room at Sarah Lawrence every Thursday at 8:00 sharp. Nikki would drive us to get KFC, and we’d go to Erica’s and turn on NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Uncooked. The entire thing. She did that every week.
But there are more reminiscences to help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many journeys to Red Lobster with Erica as a result of she loved their cheesy bread. I remember her asking me if I would read her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she really trusted me and respected my opinion. We grew to become even closer mates after I had my kids as a result of Erica cherished youngsters and had a pure way with them.”
But this doesn’t really categorical how important Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I think The World should know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she referred to as Nikki and informed her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki virtually felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would tell me where she would journey her bike to go get her hair completed,” one of an important particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming again to Sarah Lawrence, she called Nikki and said, “I’m coming again. And i wanna live with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Completed.” They were suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to hitch them, their senior year.
Does this express the time spent talking collectively about politics, celeb gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it express the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only baby, she’s always been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana said,
“The factor I admired so much about Erica is that she deferred to no one. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she known as me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we had been speaking about the deal’s press coverage. I used to be capable of get a photo of Erica in the paper — a gorgeous one, natch. However she was outraged that Selection ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as an alternative of her. ‘It isn’t like he wrote the guide,’ she deadpanned. And i simply needed to chuckle. She was proper, of course. Most individuals would have been satisfied to take second billing to an Oscar winner. However not Erica. And that was the type of hutzpah that so outlined her for me.”
But this doesn’t tell The World how Tatiana came into our circle after we would all graduated, and the way we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even before she married a man who did go to college with us. And this story additionally does not inform how Erica and Tatiana would banter. On a regular basis. How they cracked one another up, and admired each other’s snazzy one-liners.
I could inform The World what Rachel remembers, which tells so much about our Erica:
“You and Aish were taking your junior yr away. I was basically alone. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Warfare, and Reconstruction.” There have been a couple of white peeps in the category but largely it was girls of shade. Erica was a freshman and obviously I seen her. Sturdy and stone island jackets black quiet. Stunning. Perhaps a bit intimidating, though she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be one in all the only white ladies in a category with a reasonably charged subject. Someday, we were two of some left in the room. I used to be pulling my curly hair again into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that stuck out above my ears. Pressing them back, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I observed and at last, bravely provided ‘I have these items of hair, I simply cannot get them to stay down. They do not develop. It is so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you are saying you may have breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Yes, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-faced way ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we had been mates.”
I wish I had house to explain to The World the beat and pulse and vitality of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel could be in the city dancing. The way you dance along with your lady in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you might be in a moment collectively. A second as large as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The way they rolled appreciated that via the town.
The town was about half-hour away from the place we all lived collectively in faculty. And all of us did dwell together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with lower than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 individual household estate. It was like living with family. Erica handled her ladies like household.
Just some years in the past, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia they’d a sale at Aisha’s house within the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased one skirt however agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing again then and could only afford one. She made her selection, regretted not having the resources to purchase each, and went for a swim. When she got here again, Erica had folded the gown Camille couldn’t afford and positioned it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture but not a complete shock. Does it inform The World how she gave without gush, with out pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Idea, a treatise on womanhood that she developed throughout her yr at Oxford, two a long time earlier than the publication of Feminista. Erica typed it and printed it and stapled it together and mailed it, Par Avion, with hand-written notes to us all. Once i learn it, I advised her what I believed. “You are a very good author, Erica,” I said on the cellphone. “Actually good.” I can inform you we’ll all the time have The Lobster Idea of Love, however I can’t inform you the actual Lobster Principle. (I just can’t.)
So I will ask you to stay with me as I tell you, The World, this story, this reminiscence. I believe it is perhaps all I’ve left to provide you with:
We sped down the Hudson River Parkway, away from the rolling lawns and stone buildings of our tiny suburban faculty and into the evening, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of town. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed harder on the fuel pedal, fueled by the Friday night time master mix and the hot air of righteousness fogging the home windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We have been on our approach to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a certain rock band. He had been dating Rachel, had stopped courting her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We were decided to get it back. To get him back. You recognize.
It was concerning the belt however, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a tough factor for us in any respect), and that i do remember my finger and neck shifting back and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would send Rachel the belt.
We confirmed him.
After the show we girls sat within the automobile eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare got right into a struggle, the cab U-turned on third Avenue and hit the taxi double parked subsequent to the Ford Festiva, which hit us, and the fare pulled the taxi driver out the window of the taxi and threw him on the hood of the taxi that had banged into us, and in addition threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, rather a lot, and we screamed, loads, and for a very long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and ultimately the police got here, and the police officer told me to just stay in the automotive while he wrote a report (which we found out later was a false report with no contact information and ultimately figured the taxi driver must’ve given up that night’s cash to pay off the cop), and then in spite of everything that it started to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There isn’t any means I am gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay phone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a certain Hip Hop group with my code, and he known as me back on the pay phone, and I was like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and inside minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and i adopted his black automotive with the crimson; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black apartment, and me and my women ended up selecting out afro wigs for an enormous part of that night earlier than we settled in enough to essentially crash and sleep till the following morning once we drove again to high school in a busted up Ford Festiva that might never get properly repaired since we might by no means be capable of file an insurance claim with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just stated, “Told you you should not go.”
See, it was Aisha, and Rachel, and Nikki, and that i in a Ford Festiva. Erica refused to go along with us. After we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we just Had to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite knowledge, informed us this: “Like, I don’t get it.”
And when we tried to persuade her that this was our mission, that we simply had to accept it, she simply mentioned this: “You should not go. This is silly.” And after we had been all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she reasonably dramatically shook her duvet and acquired in the mattress.
She was proper, of course. The man by no means even sent Rachel her belt.
And so regardless that Erica wasn’t in the automotive with us, the story is incomplete with out her. Her “Informed you you shouldn’t go” the next morning has echoed these 22 years since and will sound on a lower frequency in my brain for the rest of my life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, basic, wild, loopy, bananas college expertise. And so of course she was in the automotive with us, the entire way there and again, regardless that she was the just one with sense sufficient to know to not be.
Erica was all the time smarter than us. Than all of us put together.
I like to think of us all rolling collectively like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the decades waiting for us up ahead. Erica won’t ever be in the automotive with us. Not ever once more. However the story, our story, will never be full with out her. She is going to all the time be riding with us. Somehow. Her presence guiding us, wisely, into our uncertain future. Her voice will echo in the tales we’ll remember and inform after we attain that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our energy keen her presence back to us. Erica shall be with us that way.