Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Good friend, Erica Kennedy
I do not want to write down up to now tense. I have to use the past tense not solely as a result of I am writing about the previous, but additionally because I’m writing about proper now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our expensive, lovely, superb, fantastic, good, sharp sister. Who’s now gone from this earth, and but so very present. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I can not even consider I am telling you this and you’re at the airport,” I felt the final second of my personal stability tick tock away. In the subsequent breath she instructed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound got here out of me, and i cried, and that i did not care that others had been watching me as this sound came out of me and i cried. And I’ve been unstable ever since.
But this isn’t about me. It’s 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 phrases. 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 she gazed at our youngsters, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she liked so deeply simply because they, after all, have been her kids, too How can I tell you, The World, what she meant to us all How I am crying right now as I kind this as a result of it hurts too much to put in writing about her this fashion
I don’t assume I can communicate how she made us really feel. So, I will attempt to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and once we did it, and with whom. I will attempt to express friendship that spanned over two decades. That was purported to last a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go along with these phrases, I remembered how vivid and beautiful she always was. How all of it came together. I remembered where all of it began.
That 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 i lie together on a bed 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, via the parking lot, to the one guest shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on cold. Cinder blocks surround the pipe and reach up toward the open sky. We’ve got all run to that shower for two weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise moment when it is just too late within the day to swim or sunbathe, however properly earlier than it’s evening. When the sun is low however the air continues to be heat. That is the only time our our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot because it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively and look forward to them, and we talk. I do not remember what we discuss. This was 22 years ago. I only remember the feeling. It is warm and proper. It is gorgeous. We’re beautiful, all of us, together. We discuss and chuckle but we’re quiet, too. For long stretches we simply lie there within the silence at dusk. We are someplace between day and night. We are someplace between girl and lady. This will last without end, I feel. This is sisterhood. I know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Sure. These are my sisters.’
Many years later, Rachel may have a baby. She could have a woman. She will title her Jamaica. She never 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 extensive awake and in prayer. I was by no means 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 kept me safe like that.
And she kept me safe like this: I remember when I used to be about to leap on a moped with a pal, and I used to be placing on my really cute shoes, and she mentioned, “Eisa, are you happening Gree’s moped tonight ” And i mentioned yeah and kept chatting to Aisha and she said, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I was like no means, and i stored chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you don’t need to ride on a moped with sandals.” And i lastly stopped chatting and stated why not And she stated actually fast and a little louder, “Because anything might occur on that bike and you should be ready and you can’t do shit in these sandals.” And I used to be like, no matter Erica. And she obtained real low and said, “Eisa, I would like you to put on your sneakers.” And i looked her in the attention and stated no. And she stamped her foot and stated, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And that i bought actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I have a picture of Gree and me on the moped that night. I am smiling and secure. I am additionally wearing my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying Aisha and me her room, her mates, her life there.
Throughout that same journey to Europe, Erica and that 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 were backstage with the Hip Hop groups who carried out that evening, and I was starving. I had not eaten a lot since touchdown at Gatwick, racing to the lodge to fulfill Erica, and heading into the London streets. I used to be eating 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 Stone Island Jackets my girl. Both memories are sweet.
I remember strolling by way of the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to buy those prairie print dresses we truly looked pretty good in.
I remember sitting in her dorm room at Sarah Lawrence each Thursday at 8:00 sharp. Nikki would drive us to get KFC, and we might 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 memories 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 learn her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she actually trusted me and respected my opinion. We grew to become even nearer mates after I had my kids as a result of Erica liked children and had a pure means with them.”
But this doesn’t really categorical how important Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was right. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I think The World ought to 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 almost felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would tell me the place she would trip her bike to go get her hair completed,” one of the most important particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she known as Nikki and mentioned, “I am coming again. And that i wanna live with you.” Nikki did not hesitate. “Performed.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom stone island mens sweatshirt to affix them, their senior year.
Does this express the time spent talking together about politics, movie star gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it categorical the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only youngster, 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 referred to as me at the Hollywood Reporter, and we have been talking in regards to the deal’s press protection. I used to be in a position to get a photograph of Erica in the paper — a ravishing one, natch. However she was outraged that Selection ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as an alternative of her. ‘It’s not like he wrote the e-book,’ she deadpanned. And i just needed to snigger. She was right, of course. Most individuals would have been happy 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 how we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even earlier than she married a guy who did go to school 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 may inform The World what Rachel remembers, which tells a lot about our Erica:
“You and Aish were taking your junior 12 months away. I was mainly by myself. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Warfare, and Reconstruction.” There were a number of white peeps in the class however largely it was girls of shade. Erica was a freshman and clearly I seen her. Sturdy and quiet. Stunning. Possibly a little bit intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be one in all the only white ladies in a category with a pretty charged subject. At some point, we were two of some left in the room. I was pulling my curly hair back into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that caught out above my ears. Pressing them again, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I observed and at last, bravely offered ‘I’ve these items of hair, I just can’t get them to stay down. They do not develop. It’s so annoying.’ Erica said, ‘So, you are 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-faced way ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we had been mates.”
I wish I had house to describe to The World the beat and pulse and power of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel would be in the city dancing. The way in which you dance with your lady in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you might be in a moment collectively. A second as massive as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The way in which they rolled appreciated that via the city.
The city was about half-hour away from where we all lived together in school. And we all did dwell together there. stubs Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 particular person household property. It was like dwelling with household. Erica treated her women like family.
Only a few years ago, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia they had a sale at Aisha’s home in the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she bought one skirt but agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing back then and will only afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the resources to buy both, and went for a swim. When she got here back, Erica had folded the dress Camille could not afford and placed it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a total shock. Does it inform The World how she gave with out gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Concept, a treatise on womanhood that she developed throughout her yr at Oxford, two many years 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. When i read it, I instructed her what I thought. “You’re a extremely good writer, Erica,” I stated on the telephone. “Actually good.” I can let you know we will at all times have The Lobster Concept of Love, however I can’t tell you the precise Lobster Idea. (I simply can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stick with me as I inform you, The World, this story, this reminiscence. I feel it might be all I’ve left to offer you:
We sped down the Hudson River Parkway, away from the rolling lawns and stone buildings of our tiny suburban school and into the night time, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of town. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed tougher on the gas pedal, fueled by the Friday night master mix and the new air of righteousness fogging the home windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We were on our strategy to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a sure rock band. He had been courting Rachel, had stopped relationship her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We had been determined to get it again. To get him back. You realize.
It was about the belt however, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the town, strode backstage (not a troublesome thing for us at all), and i do remember my finger and neck transferring again and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would ship Rachel the belt.
We showed him.
After the present we women sat in the automotive consuming St. Marks pizza. After which, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare got into a battle, the cab U-turned on third 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 also threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, too much, and we screamed, a lot, and for a long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and finally the police came, and the police officer advised me to only keep in the automotive whereas he wrote a report (which we came upon later was a false report with no contact data and ultimately figured the taxi driver should’ve given up that evening’s cash to repay the cop), after which in any case that it started to snow, and I was like, ‘There is no such thing as a way I’m gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay cellphone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a certain Hip Hop group with my code, and he referred to as me again on the pay telephone, and I used to be like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and inside minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and that i adopted his black automotive with the pink; black; and inexperienced flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condominium, and me and my ladies ended up selecting out afro wigs for a giant a part of that evening before we settled in enough to essentially crash and sleep until the next morning after we drove back to highschool in a busted up Ford Festiva that will never get correctly repaired since we’d by no means be able to file an insurance declare with the faux report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica simply mentioned, “Informed you you should not go.”
See, it was Aisha, and Rachel, and Nikki, and i in a Ford Festiva. Erica refused to go with us. When we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we just Had to get the belt back, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, told us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And when we tried to convince her that this was our mission, that we just had to just accept it, she simply stated this: “You should not go. This is silly.” And after we have been all like, “We’re going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she rather dramatically shook her duvet and got within the mattress.
She was right, after all. The guy never even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so though Erica wasn’t within the automotive with us, the story is incomplete with out her. Her “Told you you shouldn’t go” the subsequent morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a decrease frequency in my brain for the rest of my life.
It was a hall-of-fame, traditional, wild, crazy, bananas school expertise. And so after all she was in the automobile with us, the whole method there and again, even though she was the just one with sense enough to know not to be.
Erica was all the time smarter than us. Than all of us put together.
I like to consider 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 will not ever be within the automobile with us. Not ever once more. But the story, our story, won’t ever be complete with out her. She’s going to all the time be riding with us. Someway. Her presence guiding us, properly, into our uncertain future. Her voice will echo in the tales we will remember and tell when we attain that future. We’ll conjure her name, our vitality prepared her presence back to us. Erica shall be with us that manner.