Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t want to write up to now tense. I need to use the previous tense not solely because I’m writing in regards to the past, but also because I’m writing about proper now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our dear, lovely, wonderful, wonderful, smart, sharp sister. Who’s now gone from this earth, and but so very current. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I can’t even imagine I’m telling you this and you’re at the airport,” I felt the final second of my private stability tick tock away. In the next breath she instructed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound got here out of me, and that i cried, and that i didn’t care that others had been watching me as this sound got here out of me and i cried. And I’ve been unstable ever since.
But this isn’t about me. It is about our girlfriend. I am supposed to speak to the world what she meant to us. I don’t suppose this is possible. She is – was – too too far past words. How am I to communicate her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek in opposition to cheek The delight in her smile, the way she gazed at our children, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she liked so deeply just because they, of course, were 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 an excessive amount of to jot down about her this way
I don’t assume I can talk how she made us really feel. So, I’ll try to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and when 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 pictures to go along with these phrases, I remembered how vivid and stunning she always was. How all of it came together. I remembered where all of it began.
This is one reminiscence: We are at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a wood shack on the beach. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together on a mattress and speak. I remember feeling beautiful, with all of them, collectively like that, in this shack on the seaside.
Nikki and Jane have run outdoors, by means of the parking lot, to the only guest shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on cold. Cinder blocks encompass the pipe and reach up toward the open sky. We’ve got all run to that shower for two weeks now, making an attempt to bathe at that exact second when it is too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but nicely earlier than it is night. When the solar is low but the air continues to be warm. That is the one time our bodies can take the cold that shoots from the spigot because it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie together 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’s warm and proper. It is beautiful. We are beautiful, all of us, together. We talk and snort however we’re quiet, too. For long stretches we just lie there within the silence at dusk. We are someplace between day and evening. We are someplace between woman and woman. This will last perpetually, I feel. That 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 could have a girl. She will name her Jamaica. She by no means has to explain to any of us why she chooses this identify for her daughter.
On the return flight from the island, the aircraft shook and bounced and rattled, and I used to be huge 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 round her like a chrysalis. She reached out to carry my hand. She kept me safe like that.
And she kept me secure like this: I remember when I used to be about to jump 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 kept chatting to Aisha and she said, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I used stone island zip up jacket to be like no manner, and that i saved chatting. And she said, “Eisa, you don’t need to ride on a moped with sandals.” And that i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she mentioned really quick and just a little louder, “Because something may occur on that bike and also you have to be prepared and also you can’t do shit in those sandals.” And I used to be like, whatever Erica. And she bought actual low and stated, “Eisa, I need you to put on your sneakers.” And i regarded her in the eye and mentioned no. And she stamped her foot and said, “Eisa, take these sandals off and put your damn sneakers on now.” And that i obtained real quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I’ve an image of Gree and me on the moped that evening. I’m smiling and safe. I am additionally sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, showing Aisha and me her room, her associates, her life there.
During that very same trip to Europe, Erica and i danced at a concert at Hammersmith Odeon. We have 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 teams who performed that night, and I was starving. I had not eaten a lot since touchdown at Gatwick, racing to the lodge to satisfy Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was eating oranges. There was a bowl of oranges in the greenroom, and I used to be consuming orange after orange after orange. So I remember these oranges. And partying with my girl. Each reminiscences are candy.
I remember strolling by means of the flea market on West 4th here in New York to purchase those prairie print dresses we really appeared 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 dough from the log. Raw. The entire thing. She did that each week.
But there are extra reminiscences that will help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many journeys to Purple Lobster with Erica as a result of she cherished 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 became even closer buddies after I had my kids as a result of Erica liked kids and had a pure means with them.”
However this would not really categorical 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 referred to as Nikki and advised her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki nearly felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me the place she would trip her bike to go get her hair executed,” one in every of the most important particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she called Nikki and stated, “I’m coming back. And that i wanna live with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Executed.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to join them, their senior yr.
Does this specific the time spent speaking collectively 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 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 known as me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we have been talking about the deal’s press coverage. I used to be capable of get a photograph of Erica in the paper — a wonderful 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 ebook,’ she deadpanned. And i just needed to snigger. She was right, 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 defined her for me.”
But this doesn’t tell 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 varsity with us. And this story also does not inform how Erica and Tatiana would banter. On a regular basis. How they cracked one another up, and admired one another’s snazzy one-liners.
I could inform The World what Rachel remembers, which tells a lot about our Erica:
“You and Aish had been taking your junior yr away. I used to be basically by myself. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Warfare, and Reconstruction.” There have been just a few white peeps in the class but principally it was girls of shade. Erica was a freshman and obviously I noticed her. Sturdy and quiet. Beautiful. Possibly a bit intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I was one in every of the only white ladies in a category with a reasonably charged subject. Sooner or later, we were two of some left in the room. I was pulling my curly hair again right into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that caught out above my ears. Urgent them again, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I seen stone island zip up jacket and at last, bravely offered ‘I’ve these items of hair, I simply cannot get them to stay down. They don’t develop. It’s so annoying.’ Erica mentioned, ‘So, you are saying you’ve breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Sure, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-confronted way ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we have been mates.”
I want I had area 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 best way you dance together with your lady in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you’re in a moment together. A second as large as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The way in which they rolled appreciated that by town.
The town was about half-hour away from where we all lived collectively in faculty. And all of us did dwell together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 individual household estate. It was like dwelling with family. Erica treated her ladies like household.
Only a few years in the past, when Aisha and Erica started Diego Garcia they’d a sale at Aisha’s house within the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she bought one skirt however agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing again then and could only afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the assets to buy each, and went for a swim. When she got here again, Erica had folded the gown Camille couldn’t afford and placed it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a complete shock. Does it inform 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 yr at Oxford, two a long time before 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. After i learn it, I advised her what I assumed. “You’re a really good author, Erica,” I stated on the cellphone. “Actually good.” I can inform you we are going to all the time have The Lobster Concept of Love, however I am unable to inform you the actual Lobster Theory. (I just can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stay with me as I inform you, The World, this story, this reminiscence. I think it is likely to be all I’ve 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 time, 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 evening master mix and the recent air of righteousness fogging the windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We have been on our technique to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a certain rock band. He had been courting Rachel, had stopped courting her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We have been determined to get it again. To get him back. You understand.
It was about the belt however, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into 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 show we ladies sat within the car eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare acquired 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 also threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, a lot, and we screamed, loads, and for a very long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and finally the police came, and the police officer instructed me to simply stay in the automobile whereas he wrote a report (which we discovered later was a false report with no contact data and finally figured the taxi driver must’ve given up that night time’s cash to repay the cop), and then in spite of everything that it began to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There isn’t a manner I’m gonna drive us back to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay cellphone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a sure Hip Hop group with my code, and he known as me again on the pay cellphone, 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 automobile with the red; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black residence, and me and my women ended up choosing out afro wigs for an enormous a part of that night time before we settled in sufficient to actually crash and sleep till the next morning once we drove back to school in a busted up Ford Festiva that will by no means get properly repaired since we might never be able to file an insurance declare with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And in spite of everything that, Erica simply stated, “Instructed you you shouldn’t 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 just Had to get the belt back, Erica, in her infinite knowledge, advised us this: “Like, I don’t get it.”
And after we tried to convince her that this was our mission, that we just had to just accept it, she merely mentioned this: “You should not go. That is stupid.” And once we were all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she reasonably dramatically shook her duvet and obtained within the bed.
She was proper, in fact. The guy 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 following 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 hall-of-fame, traditional, wild, loopy, bananas school expertise. And so of course she was within the car with us, the entire means there and back, regardless that she was the just one with sense sufficient to know not to be.
Erica was at all times smarter than us. Than all of us put collectively.
I like to think of us all rolling together like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the many years waiting for us up forward. Erica will not ever be within the car with us. Not ever again. But the story, our story, will never be complete with out her. She is going to at all times be riding with us. One way or the other. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our uncertain future. Her voice will echo within the stories we’ll remember and tell after we attain that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our vitality prepared her presence again to us. Erica will likely be with us that approach.