Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Buddy, Erica Kennedy
I are not looking for to write down up to now tense. I have to use the previous tense not solely because I am writing in regards to the previous, but additionally because I am writing about right now. This present. This presence. My sister. Our dear, lovely, amazing, great, good, sharp sister. Who is now gone from this earth, and yet so very current. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I can’t even consider I am telling you this and you’re on the airport,” I felt the final moment of my private stability tick tock away. In the subsequent breath she instructed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound came out of me, and i cried, and i did not care that others were watching me as this sound got here out of me and i cried. And I have been unstable ever since.
But this is not about me. It is about our girlfriend. I am supposed to communicate to the world what she meant to us. I don’t assume this is possible. She is – was – too too far beyond words. How am I to communicate her love, expressed with a simple brush of cheek against cheek The delight in her smile, the way in which she gazed at our kids, the ones Aisha, Rachel, and i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she liked so deeply simply because they, after all, have been her children, too How can I inform you, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying proper now as I kind this because it hurts an excessive amount of to write down about her this way
I do not suppose I can communicate how she made us feel. So, I will attempt to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and when we did it, and with whom. I will strive to specific friendship that spanned over two decades. That was speculated to final a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go with these phrases, I remembered how brilliant and stunning she at all times was. How it all got here together. I remembered the place it all started.
This is one reminiscence: We’re at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a picket shack on the seashore. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively on a mattress and discuss. I remember feeling stunning, with all of them, collectively like that, in this shack on the beach.
Nikki and Jane have run outdoors, by way of the parking lot, to the one visitor shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on chilly. Cinder blocks surround the pipe and reach up towards the open sky. Now we have all run to that shower for two weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise second when it is too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, however properly earlier than it’s night. When the sun is low but the air is still warm. This is the one time our our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot as it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively and look ahead to them, and we discuss. I do not remember what we talk about. This was 22 years ago. I solely remember the feeling. It’s heat and right. It is gorgeous. We’re lovely, all of us, together. We talk and snigger however we are quiet, too. For long stretches we simply lie there within the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and night. We are someplace between girl and girl. This will final without end, I think. This is sisterhood. I know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Yes. These are my sisters.’
Many years later, Rachel may have a baby. She can have a girl. She will identify her Jamaica. She never has to elucidate to any of us why she chooses this name for her daughter.
On the return flight from the island, the plane shook and bounced and rattled, and I used to be broad awake and in prayer. I used to be by no means good at flying. Erica reached out from her sleep, reached out from the folds of the blanket that was wrapped round her like a chrysalis. She reached out to hold my hand. She saved me protected like that.
And she saved 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 actually cute shoes, and she said, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And i mentioned yeah and stored chatting to Aisha and she mentioned, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I was like no means, and that i kept chatting. And she said, “Eisa, you need not journey on a moped with sandals.” And i finally stopped chatting and said why not And she said actually quick and just a little louder, “As a result of anything could happen on that bike and also you have to be ready and also you cannot do shit in these sandals.” And I was like, whatever Erica. And she obtained actual low and said, “Eisa, I want you to put on your sneakers.” And that i appeared her in the eye and stated no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And that i bought real quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I’ve a picture of Gree and me on the moped that evening. I’m smiling and protected. I am additionally wearing my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying Aisha and me her room, her pals, her life there.
Throughout that same trip to Europe, Erica and i danced at a concert at Hammersmith Odeon. We had been at Jazz to Pop to Soul. Or Jazz to Soul to Hip Hop. Or one thing like that. This was 21 years ago. Anyway, we were backstage with the Hip Hop teams who carried out that evening, and I used to be starving. I had not eaten a lot since landing at Gatwick, racing to the hotel to meet Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was consuming oranges. There was a bowl of oranges within the greenroom, and I was eating orange after orange after orange. So I remember those oranges. And partying with my lady. Each recollections are candy.
I remember strolling by means of the flea market on West 4th here in New York to buy these prairie print dresses we really looked fairly 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 might go to Erica’s and activate NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Uncooked. The whole thing. She did that every week.
But there are extra recollections that can assist you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Crimson Lobster with Erica as a result of she cherished their cheesy bread. I remember her asking me if I might read her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she actually trusted me and revered my opinion. We became even nearer friends after I had my kids because Erica cherished youngsters and had a pure approach with them.”
But this would not really categorical how important Aisha was to Erica. Rachel known as Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was right. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I feel The World should know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she known 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 accomplished,” one of the most important details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she referred to as Nikki stone island junior and mentioned, “I’m coming back. And i wanna reside with you.” Nikki did not hesitate. “Accomplished.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to join them, their senior year.
Does this categorical the time spent talking together about politics, superstar gossip, guys, world events, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it specific the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only child, she’s at all times been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana said,
“The thing I admired a lot about Erica is that she deferred to no one. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she known as me at the Hollywood Reporter, and we have been talking concerning the deal’s press coverage. I used to be able to get a photo of Erica in the paper — a beautiful one, natch. But she was outraged that Variety ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein instead of her. ‘It is not like he wrote the e book,’ she deadpanned. And i simply had to laugh. 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 form of hutzpah that so outlined her for me.”
However this does not inform The World how Tatiana came into our circle after we’d all graduated, and how we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even earlier than she married a man who did go to college with us. And this story additionally doesn’t tell how Erica and Tatiana would banter. All the time. How they cracked each other 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 12 months away. I was mainly on my own. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Conflict, and Reconstruction.” There were a number of white peeps in the class but mostly it was women of shade. Erica was a freshman and obviously I seen her. Strong and quiet. Lovely. Perhaps a bit intimidating, though she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be one of the only white women in a class with a fairly charged matter. One day, we had been two of some left in the room. I used to be pulling my curly hair back into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that caught out above my ears. Urgent them back, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I noticed and at last, bravely offered ‘I’ve these pieces of hair, I simply can’t get them to stay down. They do not grow. It is so annoying.’ Erica said, ‘So, you’re saying you’ve breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Yes, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-confronted means ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we had been buddies.”
I wish I had space to explain to The World the beat and pulse and energy of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel can be in the town dancing. The way you dance together with your lady in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you might be in a moment together. A second as big as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The way they rolled liked that by means of the city.
The town was about half-hour away from where all of us lived together in school. And all of us did live together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 particular person household estate. It was like dwelling with family. Erica treated her ladies like family.
Just some years in the past, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia that they had a sale at Aisha’s house within the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased one skirt but agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing back then and will only afford one. She made her choice, regretted not having the assets to purchase both, and went for a swim. When she came again, Erica had folded the gown Camille couldn’t afford and placed it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a total surprise. Does it tell The World how she gave without gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Principle, a treatise on womanhood that she developed during her 12 months at Oxford, two a long time before the publication of Feminista. Erica typed it and printed it and stapled it collectively and mailed it, Par Avion, with hand-written notes to us all. After i learn it, I advised her what I assumed. “You’re a very good author, Erica,” I mentioned on the phone. “Really good.” I can let you know we are going to at all times have The Lobster Principle of Love, however I am unable to tell you the precise Lobster Concept. (I simply can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stick with me as I let you know, The World, this story, this memory. I feel 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 school and into the evening, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of town. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed more durable on the fuel pedal, fueled by the Friday evening master mix and the recent air of righteousness fogging the home windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We had been on our option to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a certain rock band. He had been relationship Rachel, had stopped courting her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We had been decided to get it back. To get him back. You understand.
It was concerning the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the town, strode backstage (not a difficult factor for us in any respect), and that i do remember my finger and neck shifting again and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would ship Rachel the belt.
We confirmed him.
After the present we ladies sat in the automobile eating St. Marks pizza. After which, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare received right into a struggle, the cab U-turned on 3rd Avenue and hit the taxi double parked next 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, so much, and we screamed, too much, and for a very long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and finally the police came, and the police officer advised me to only keep within the car while he wrote a report (which we came upon later was a false report with no contact information and ultimately figured the taxi driver should’ve given up that night’s money to repay the cop), and then in any case that it started to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There isn’t any manner I’m gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay phone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a sure Hip Hop group with my code, and he known as me back on the pay telephone, and I used to be like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and within minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and that i adopted his black car with the red; black; and inexperienced flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condo, and me and my women ended up choosing out afro wigs for a big part of that night time before we settled in enough to essentially crash and sleep till the following morning when we drove back to highschool in a busted up Ford Festiva that may by no means get correctly repaired since we might never be able to file an insurance declare with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just said, “Advised you you shouldn’t 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 convince her that this was our mission, that we just had to just accept it, she merely stated this: “You shouldn’t go. This is stupid.” And once we have been all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she somewhat dramatically shook her duvet and got within the bed.
She was proper, of course. The man by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so regardless that Erica wasn’t within the automobile with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Informed you you should not go” the stone island junior following morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a lower frequency in my brain for the rest of my life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, classic, wild, crazy, bananas college experience. And so after all she was in the car with us, the whole means there and again, although she was the only one with sense enough to know not to be.
Erica was always smarter than us. Than all of us put collectively.
I like to think about us all rolling together like we did that night we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the many years waiting for us up ahead. Erica won’t ever be in the automotive with us. Not ever again. But the story, our story, will never be full with out her. She is going to at all times be riding with us. In some way. Her presence guiding us, wisely, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo in the stories we’ll remember and tell when we reach that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our power willing her presence back to us. Erica will probably be with us that manner.