Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Buddy, Erica Kennedy
I don’t need to jot down prior to now tense. I must use the past tense not only because I am writing about the past, but also because I’m writing about right now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our expensive, lovely, superb, fantastic, good, sharp sister. Who’s now gone from this earth, and yet so very present. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I am unable to even consider I’m telling you this and you’re at the airport,” I felt the last moment of my personal stability tick tock away. In the following breath she advised 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.
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 do not assume 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 children, the ones Aisha, Rachel, and i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she loved so deeply simply because they, of course, had been her kids, too How can I inform you, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying proper now as I kind this as a result of it hurts a lot to write about her this way
I do not assume I can communicate how she made us feel. So, I will try to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and after we did it, and with whom. I will attempt to precise friendship that spanned over two a long time. That was alleged to last a lifetime.
As I pulled pictures to go with these words, I remembered how brilliant and lovely she all the time was. How it all got here collectively. I remembered the place it all began.
This is one memory: We are at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a wooden shack on the beach. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together on a bed and discuss. I remember feeling lovely, with all of them, collectively like that, in this shack on the seashore.
Nikki and Jane have run exterior, 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 surround the pipe and reach up toward the open sky. We have now all run to that shower for 2 weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise moment when it is just too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but well before it is night. When the sun is low but the air is still warm. This is the only time our our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot because it blasts salt and sand from our pores and skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie together and anticipate them, and we stone island crew neck sweater black talk. I do not remember what we talk about. This was 22 years ago. I only remember the feeling. It is warm and right. It is beautiful. We’re lovely, all of us, together. We discuss and giggle but we’re quiet, too. For long stretches we just lie there in the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and night. We are somewhere between girl and girl. This can last endlessly, I believe. That is sisterhood. I do know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Sure. These are my sisters.’
Many years later, Rachel can have a baby. She will have a girl. She will name 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 was broad 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 around her like a chrysalis. She reached out to hold my hand. She kept me protected like that.
And she kept me protected like this: I remember when I was about to jump on a moped with a friend, and I was putting on my really cute shoes, and she said, “Eisa, are you going on Gree’s moped tonight ” And i mentioned yeah and saved chatting to Aisha and she mentioned, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I was like no manner, and i kept chatting. And she said, “Eisa, you don’t need to ride on a moped with sandals.” And i finally stopped chatting and said why not And she said really fast and a bit louder, “Because anything could happen on that bike and you have to be ready and you can’t do shit in those sandals.” And I was like, whatever Erica. And she got real low and said, “Eisa, I need you to wear your sneakers.” And i appeared her in the eye and said no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “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 protected. I am also wearing my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying Aisha and me her room, her buddies, her life there.
During that very same trip to Europe, Erica and i danced at a concert at Hammersmith Odeon. We were at Jazz to Pop to Soul. Or Jazz to Soul to Hip Hop. Or something like that. This was 21 years ago. Anyway, we were backstage with the Hip Hop groups who performed that evening, and I used to be 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 was eating oranges. There was a bowl of oranges in the greenroom, and I was eating orange after orange after orange. So I remember those oranges. And partying with my lady. Both recollections 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 actually looked pretty 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 would 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 extra recollections to help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Crimson Lobster with Erica because she beloved their cheesy bread. I remember her asking me if I might learn 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 closer friends after I had my children because Erica loved kids and had a natural way with them.”
But this does not really categorical how necessary Aisha was to Erica. Rachel known as Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I think 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 nearly felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me the place she would journey her bike to go get her hair achieved,” one of a very powerful details 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 reside with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Completed.” They were suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to join them, their senior year.
Does this express the time spent talking together about politics, celeb gossip, guys, world events, fears, hopes, and – yes – hair Does it express the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only child, she’s always been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana said,
“The thing I admired so much 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 had been talking about the deal’s press coverage. I was 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’s not like he wrote the e book,’ she deadpanned. And i just had to chortle. She was right, of course. Most people would have been satisfied to take second billing to an Oscar winner. But not Erica. And that was the form of hutzpah that so defined her for me.”
But this does not 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 before she married a guy who did go to college with us. And this story also 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 a lot about our Erica:
“You and Aish have been taking your junior yr away. I used to be principally by myself. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction.” There have been just a few white peeps in the class however principally it was ladies of colour. Erica was a freshman and clearly I seen her. Sturdy and quiet. Stunning. Possibly somewhat intimidating, though she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be one of the only white women stone island crew neck sweater black in a category with a reasonably charged subject. Sooner or later, we have been two of some left within 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 back, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I seen and eventually, bravely supplied ‘I’ve these items of hair, I simply cannot get them to remain down. They do not grow. It’s so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you are saying you have breakage.’
Breakage I by no means heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Sure, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-confronted means ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we were pals.”
I want I had house to describe to The World the beat and pulse and vitality of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel can be in the town dancing. The best way you dance together with your woman in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and really feel, know, you are in a moment together. A moment as big as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The way in which they rolled preferred that by way of town.
The town was about half-hour away from the place all of us lived collectively in school. And we all did stay together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 individual household property. It was like residing with household. Erica handled her women like household.
Just some years ago, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia they had a sale at Aisha’s house in 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 will solely afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the assets to purchase each, and went for a swim. When she came back, Erica had folded the dress Camille couldn’t afford and placed it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture but not a total shock. Does it inform The World how she gave with out gush, with out pomp or expectation
And she gave us all of the Lobster Principle, a treatise on womanhood that she developed during her yr at Oxford, two a long time earlier than 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. Once i learn it, I instructed her what I believed. “You are a very good author, Erica,” I stated on the cellphone. “Actually good.” I can inform you we are going to all the time have The Lobster Idea of Love, however I can not let you know the precise Lobster Principle. (I simply cannot.)
So I’ll ask you to stick with me as I let you know, The World, this story, this reminiscence. 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 college 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 gasoline pedal, fueled by the Friday night time grasp combine and the recent air of righteousness fogging the home windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We have been on our technique to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a sure rock band. He had been dating Rachel, had stopped relationship her, and had her belt, a very nice belt. We have been decided to get it again. To get him again. You understand.
It was about the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the city, strode backstage (not a difficult thing for us in any respect), 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 confirmed him.
After the present we women sat within the automotive consuming St. Marks pizza. After which, this occurred:
A taxi driver and his fare received into a struggle, the cab U-turned on third 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 also threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, a lot, and we screamed, a lot, and for a long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and finally the police got here, and the police officer informed me to simply keep within the automotive whereas he wrote a report (which we found out later was a false report with no contact info and ultimately figured the taxi driver must’ve given up that night time’s cash to repay the cop), after which in spite of everything that it began to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There isn’t any method I’m gonna drive us back 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 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 car with the purple; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black residence, and me and my girls ended up selecting out afro wigs for an enormous a part of that evening earlier than we settled in sufficient to actually crash and sleep till the subsequent morning once we drove back to highschool in a busted up Ford Festiva that would by no means get properly repaired since we might by no means have the ability to file an insurance coverage declare with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just said, “Instructed you you should not go.”
See, it was Aisha, and Rachel, and Nikki, and i in a Ford Festiva. Erica refused to go along with us. After we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we simply Needed to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite knowledge, instructed us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And once we tried to convince her that this was our mission, that we simply had to simply accept it, she simply said this: “You should not go. That is silly.” And once we have been all like, “We’re going” she was like, “No matter.” And she reasonably dramatically shook her duvet and got 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 within the automobile with us, the story is incomplete with out her. Her “Instructed you you should not 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 life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, traditional, wild, loopy, bananas school expertise. And so after all she was within the automotive with us, the entire manner there and again, regardless that 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 consider us all rolling collectively like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the many years ready for us up forward. Erica will not ever be within the automotive with us. Not ever once more. However the story, our story, won’t ever be full with out her. She is going to all the time be riding with us. In some way. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo within the tales we’ll remember and inform after we attain that future. We’ll conjure her title, our power keen her presence back to us. Erica shall be with us that manner.
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