Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Buddy, Erica Kennedy
I are not looking for to put in writing in the past tense. I have to use the past tense not solely because I’m writing about the past, but additionally because I’m writing about right now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our pricey, lovely, wonderful, great, good, sharp sister. Who is now gone from this earth, and yet so very present. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I can’t even consider I’m telling you this and you are on the airport,” I felt the final moment of my personal stability tick tock away. In the subsequent breath she told me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound came out of me, and i cried, and i did not care that others had been watching me as this sound got here out of me and that i cried. And I have been unstable ever since.
However this is not about me. It’s about our girlfriend. I’m supposed to communicate to the world what she meant to us. I do not think this is feasible. She is – was – too too far beyond words. How am I to communicate her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek against cheek The delight in her smile, the best way she gazed at our children, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she loved so deeply simply because they, after all, were her kids, too How can I inform you, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying right now as I sort this because it hurts too much to put in writing about her this manner
I do not suppose I can communicate how she made us feel. So, I’ll try to share what. What we did, and how we did it, and once we did it, and with whom. I will attempt to precise friendship that spanned over two a long time. That was supposed to final a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go along with these words, I remembered how bright and lovely she all the time was. How it all got here collectively. I remembered the place it all started.
That is one memory: 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, together like that, in this shack on the seaside.
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 cold. Cinder blocks surround the pipe and reach up toward the open sky. We’ve got all run to that shower for 2 weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise second when it is too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but nicely before it’s night. When the solar is low however the air remains to be heat. That is the only time our our bodies can take the cold 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 forward to them, and we talk. I do not remember what we discuss. This was 22 years in the past. I only remember the feeling. It is warm and right. It is beautiful. We are beautiful, all of us, together. We discuss and snort but we’re quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we simply lie there in the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and night. We are someplace between girl and woman. This may final perpetually, I feel. This is sisterhood. I know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Yes. These are my sisters.’
A few years later, Rachel could have a child. She can have a woman. She’s going to title her Jamaica. She never has to elucidate to any of us why she chooses this title for her daughter.
On the return flight from the island, the airplane shook and bounced and rattled, and I was 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 around her like a chrysalis. She reached out to carry my hand. She stored me safe like that.
And she kept me secure like this: I remember when I used to be about to leap on a moped with a good friend, and I was placing on my really cute footwear, and she mentioned, “Eisa, are you happening Gree’s moped tonight ” And that i stated yeah and stored chatting to Aisha and she said, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I used to be like no manner, and that i stored chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you needn’t ride on a moped with sandals.” And that i lastly stopped chatting and stated why not And she mentioned actually quick and just a little louder, “Because something might happen on that bike and also you have to be prepared and also you can’t do shit in those sandals.” And I was like, whatever Erica. And she bought actual low and stated, “Eisa, I want you to wear your sneakers.” And i seemed her in the eye and stated no. And she stamped her foot and stated, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And i acquired real quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I have an image of Gree and me on the moped that night time. I’m smiling and secure. I am additionally sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, exhibiting Aisha and me her room, her associates, her life there.
During that same trip to Europe, Erica and that 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 in the past. Anyway, we were backstage with the Hip Hop teams who carried out that night, and I used to be starving. I had not eaten much since landing at Gatwick, racing to the lodge to meet Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was eating oranges. There was a bowl of oranges within the greenroom, and I used to be eating orange after orange after orange. So I remember these oranges. And partying with my woman. Each memories are candy.
I remember walking by the flea market on West 4th here in New York to buy these prairie print dresses we truly seemed fairly good in.
I remember sitting in her dorm room at Sarah Lawrence each Thursday at eight: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 stone island mussola gommata dough from the log. Raw. The whole thing. She did that every week.
But there are extra reminiscences to help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Crimson Lobster with Erica as a result of she liked their cheesy bread. I remember her asking me if I’d read her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she actually trusted me and revered my opinion. We grew to become even closer mates after I had my children because Erica loved children and had a pure method with them.”
However this would not actually specific how vital Aisha was to Erica. Rachel referred to as Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I feel The World should know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she called Nikki and advised 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 ride her bike to go get her hair carried out,” one in every of an important particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she known as Nikki and mentioned, “I’m coming again. And i wanna reside with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Done.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to affix them, their senior 12 months.
Does this specific the time spent speaking collectively about politics, superstar gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – yes – hair Does it specific the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an solely baby, she’s at all times been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana stated,
“The factor I admired a lot about Erica is that she deferred to nobody. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she called me at the Hollywood Reporter, and we were talking about the deal’s press coverage. I was in a position to get a photo of Erica in the paper — a phenomenal one, natch. But she was outraged that Selection ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as an alternative of her. ‘It is not like he wrote the guide,’ she deadpanned. And that i just needed to snort. She was proper, in fact. Most individuals would have been glad to take second billing to an Oscar winner. However not Erica. And that was the type of hutzpah that so outlined her for me.”
However this does not inform The World how Tatiana came into our circle after we might all graduated, and how we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even before she married a man who did go to college with us. And this story also would not inform how Erica and Tatiana would banter. All the time. How they cracked each other 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 had been taking your junior year away. I was principally by myself. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Struggle, and Reconstruction.” There have been a few white peeps in the category but largely it was ladies of shade. Erica was a freshman and obviously I seen her. Robust and quiet. Stunning. Perhaps a bit of intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be considered one of the only white ladies in a class with a fairly charged topic. Sooner or later, we had been two of a few left in the room. I was pulling my curly hair back into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that stuck out above my ears. Urgent them back, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I seen and finally, bravely provided ‘I have these pieces of hair, I simply can’t get them to stay down. They do not grow. It’s so annoying.’ Erica mentioned, ‘So, you’re saying you have breakage.’
Breakage I by no means heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Sure, I do.’
To which Erica mentioned in that inimitable Erica straight-faced manner ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we were pals.”
I wish I had space to describe to The World the beat and pulse and vitality of Hip Hop in the 80s, when Erica and Rachel can be in the town dancing. The way you dance along with your lady in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and really feel, know, you are in a second together. A second as huge as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The best way they rolled preferred that by way of the town.
The town was about 30 minutes away from the place all of us lived together in school. And we all did live collectively there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 individual family estate. It was like residing with family. Erica treated her ladies like household.
Just some years ago, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia that they had a sale at Aisha’s house within the Hamptons. Camille happened to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased one skirt but agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing back then and will solely afford one. She made her choice, regretted not having the assets to buy each, and went for a swim. When she got here back, Erica had folded the dress Camille could not afford and positioned it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a complete shock. Does it inform The World how she gave with out gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Principle, a treatise on womanhood that she developed throughout her year 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. When i learn it, I informed her what I believed. “You are a really good writer, Erica,” I stated on the cellphone. “Really good.” I can inform you we are going to all the time have The Lobster Principle of Love, however I am unable to let you know the precise Lobster Theory. (I just can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stay with me as I inform you, The World, this story, this memory. I believe it might be all I have left to give you:
We sped down the Hudson River Parkway, away from the rolling lawns and stone buildings of our tiny suburban faculty and into the night, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of the city. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed more durable 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 way to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a sure rock band. He had been relationship Rachel, had stopped courting her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We were decided to get it back. To get him again. You recognize.
It was concerning the belt however, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a tough thing 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 car eating St. Marks pizza. After which, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare bought right into a struggle, the cab U-turned on 3rd 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, quite a bit, and we screamed, a lot, and for a very long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and ultimately the police got here, and the police officer instructed me to just stay in the automobile while he wrote a report (which we found out later was a false report with no contact info and finally 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 began to snow, and I was like, ‘There isn’t any means I am gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay telephone 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 within 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 residence, and me and my women ended up selecting out afro wigs for an enormous part of that night earlier than we settled in sufficient to actually crash and sleep till the following morning once we drove again to school in a busted up Ford Festiva that may by no means get properly repaired since we might by no means be capable of file an insurance claim with the faux report the cop wrote out.
And in spite of everything that, Erica just stated, “Told 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. After we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we simply Had to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, informed us this: “Like, I don’t get it.”
And after we tried to persuade her that this was our mission, that we simply had to just 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, “No matter.” And she quite dramatically shook her duvet and acquired within the mattress.
She was proper, in fact. The guy never 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 subsequent morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a decrease frequency in my mind for the remainder of my stone island mussola gommata life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, classic, wild, crazy, bananas school experience. And so in fact she was within 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 ready for us up ahead. Erica will not ever be in 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. In some way. Her presence guiding us, properly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo in the stories we are going to remember and inform when we reach that future. We’ll conjure her name, our vitality willing her presence back to us. Erica might be with us that method.