Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t want to write in the past tense. I must use the past tense not only because I am writing in regards to the past, but also because I am writing about right now. This present. This presence. My sister. Our dear, lovely, amazing, wonderful, sensible, 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 am unable to even consider I am telling you this and you are on the airport,” I felt the final second 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 that i cried, and that i did not care that others had been watching me as this sound came out of me and that i cried. And I’ve been unstable ever since.
However 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 suppose this is possible. She is – was – too too far past phrases. How am I to communicate her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek in opposition to cheek The delight in her smile, the best way she gazed at our kids, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she cherished so deeply just because they, of course, were her children, too How can I inform you, The World, what she meant to us all How I am crying right now as I type this as a result of it hurts an excessive amount of to put in writing about her this fashion
I don’t suppose I can talk how she made us feel. So, I will try to share what. What we did, and how we did it, and when we did it, and with whom. I will try to precise friendship that spanned over two many years. That was purported to final a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go together with these words, I remembered how shiny and lovely she all the time was. How it all came together. I remembered where all of it started.
That is one reminiscence: We’re at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a wood shack on the seaside. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie together on a bed and talk. I remember feeling lovely, with all of them, together like that, in this shack on the seashore.
Nikki and Jane have run exterior, by means 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 encompass the pipe and attain up toward the open sky. Now we have all run to that shower for 2 weeks now, trying to bathe at that precise moment when it is just too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but effectively before it’s evening. When the solar is low but the air continues to be warm. This is the only time our bodies can take the cold that shoots from the spigot as it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie together and look ahead to them, and we discuss. 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 lovely, all of us, together. We talk and chuckle but we’re quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we simply lie there in the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and evening. We are somewhere between girl and girl. It will last ceaselessly, I think. This is sisterhood. I know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Sure. These are my sisters.’
A few years later, Rachel may have a child. She could have a woman. She’s going to identify her Jamaica. She never has to clarify 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 vast 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 protected 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 actually cute sneakers, and she stated, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And that i mentioned yeah and saved chatting to Aisha and she mentioned, “Eisa, put in your sneakers.” And I used to be like no manner, and that i stored chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you needn’t trip on a moped with sandals.” And that i lastly stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she mentioned really fast and a bit of louder, “Because something may happen on that bike and you have to be ready and you cannot do shit in those sandals.” And I used to be like, no matter Erica. And she bought actual low and stated, “Eisa, I would like you to put on your sneakers.” And that i regarded her in the attention and mentioned no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your damn sneakers on now.” And i acquired 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 protected. I’m additionally sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying Aisha and me her room, her associates, 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 one thing like that. This was 21 years in the past. Anyway, we had been backstage with the Hip Hop groups who performed that evening, and I was starving. I had not eaten much since landing at Gatwick, racing to the lodge to meet Erica, and heading into the London streets. I used to be consuming oranges. There was a bowl of oranges within the greenroom, and I used to be consuming orange after orange after orange. So I remember those oranges. And partying with my girl. Both memories are sweet.
I remember walking by means of the flea market on West 4th 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 eight:00 sharp. Nikki would drive us to get KFC, and we would go to Erica’s and turn on NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Raw. 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 journeys to Pink Lobster with Erica as a result of she beloved 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 really trusted me and respected my opinion. We grew to become even nearer mates after I had my kids because Erica beloved children and had a natural way with them.”
But this does not really categorical how essential Aisha was to Erica. Rachel known as Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I believe The World ought to know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she known 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 where she would experience her bike to go get her hair accomplished,” one in all an important particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she known as Nikki and mentioned, “I am coming back. And that i wanna dwell with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Completed.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to hitch them, their senior yr.
Does this specific the time spent speaking collectively about politics, celeb gossip, guys, world events, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it categorical the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an solely little one, 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 had been talking concerning the deal’s press protection. I used to be in a position to get a photograph of Erica within the paper — a stupendous one, natch. However she was outraged that Selection ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as a substitute of her. ‘It is not like he wrote the ebook,’ she deadpanned. And that i simply needed to snigger. 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 form of hutzpah that so defined her for me.”
However this does not inform The World how Tatiana got here into our circle after we might all graduated, and the way 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 reflective jacket stone island cracked one another up, and admired each other’s snazzy one-liners.
I might 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 mainly alone. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Conflict, and Reconstruction.” There were a couple of white peeps in the category however largely it was girls of shade. Erica was a freshman and clearly I observed her. Robust and quiet. Lovely. Perhaps a little bit intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I was one among the one white ladies in a category with a fairly charged subject. In the future, we have 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. Pressing them back, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I observed and eventually, bravely supplied ‘I’ve these items of hair, I simply can’t get them to stay down. They don’t grow. It’s so annoying.’ Erica said, ‘So, you’re saying you might 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-confronted approach ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we had been associates.”
I wish I had space to describe to The World the beat and pulse and power of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel can be in the town dancing. The best way you dance together with your girl in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you might be in a moment together. A moment as huge as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The best way they rolled appreciated that by means of the town.
The town was about half-hour away from the place we all lived together in college. And we all did live together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 individual household property. It was like dwelling with household. Erica handled her ladies like household.
Just some years ago, when Aisha and Erica started Diego Garcia that they had a sale at Aisha’s house in the Hamptons. Camille happened to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased one skirt but agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing again then and will solely afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the assets to buy both, and went for a swim. When she came back, Erica had folded the costume Camille couldn’t afford and placed it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture but not a complete shock. Does it inform The World how she gave with out gush, without Stone Island Shorts pomp or expectation
And she gave us all of the Lobster Idea, a treatise on womanhood that she developed throughout her 12 months 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 read it, I told her what I assumed. “You’re a extremely good author, Erica,” I mentioned on the cellphone. “Really good.” I can inform you we will always have The Lobster Theory of Love, but I am unable to tell you the actual Lobster Theory. (I simply can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stay with me as I inform you, The World, this story, this memory. I believe it is likely to 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 evening, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of the 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 new air of righteousness fogging the windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We had been on our method 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 had been determined to get it back. To get him back. You know.
It was concerning the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the town, strode backstage (not a tough factor for us at all), and that i do remember my finger and neck shifting again and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would send Rachel the belt.
We showed him.
After reflective jacket stone island the show we girls sat in the car eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this occurred:
A taxi driver and his fare acquired right into a battle, 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, loads, and we screamed, quite a bit, and for a very long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and finally the police came, and the police officer told me to just stay in the car while he wrote a report (which we found out later was a false report with no contact data and finally figured the taxi driver should’ve given up that evening’s money to pay off the cop), after which after all that it started to snow, and I was like, ‘There is no approach I am gonna drive us back 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 cellphone, and I was like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and within minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and i followed his black car with the red; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condominium, and me and my ladies ended up choosing out afro wigs for a giant part of that evening before we settled in enough to really crash and sleep until the next morning when we drove back to school in a busted up Ford Festiva that may never get properly repaired since we might never be capable of file an insurance claim with the fake report the cop wrote out.
And after all that, Erica just said, “Told 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. 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 don’t get it.”
And when we tried to convince her that this was our mission, that we simply had to just accept it, she merely mentioned this: “You should not go. That is silly.” And once we had been all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she fairly dramatically shook her duvet and bought in the mattress.
She was proper, after all. The man by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so regardless that Erica wasn’t within the car with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Advised you you shouldn’t go” the next morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a decrease frequency in my mind for the remainder of my life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, traditional, wild, loopy, bananas faculty expertise. And so after all she was in the automobile with us, the whole approach there and back, although 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 collectively.
I like to think of us all rolling together like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the a long time waiting for us up forward. Erica won’t ever be in the car with us. Not ever again. But the story, our story, will never be complete without her. She will always be riding with us. In some way. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our uncertain future. Her voice will echo in the stories we will remember and tell when we attain that future. We’ll conjure her title, our vitality prepared her presence again to us. Erica might be with us that manner.