Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t need to put in writing prior to now tense. I have to use the previous tense not solely as a result of I’m writing in regards to the previous, but in addition as a result of I’m writing about proper now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our expensive, lovely, superb, fantastic, 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 not even believe 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 informed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound got here out of me, and that i cried, and that i did not care that others have been watching me as this sound got here 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 assume this is feasible. She is – was – too too far past phrases. How am I to speak her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek towards cheek The delight in her smile, the way in which she gazed at our youngsters, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she cherished so deeply just because they, in fact, have been her youngsters, too How can I let you know, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying proper now as I sort this as a result of it hurts an excessive amount of to put in writing about her this manner
I don’t assume I can talk how she made us really feel. So, I’ll attempt to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and once we did it, and with whom. I’ll strive to specific friendship that spanned over two many years. That was purported to final a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go along with these phrases, I remembered how shiny and stunning she at all times was. How all of it got here collectively. I remembered the place all of it 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 collectively on a mattress and discuss. I remember feeling beautiful, with all of them, together like that, in this shack on the beach.
Nikki and Jane have run exterior, by the parking lot, to the one visitor shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on chilly. Cinder blocks encompass the pipe and attain up towards 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 too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, however nicely earlier than it’s night time. When the solar is low however the air continues to be heat. 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 i lie together and look ahead to them, and we discuss. I don’t remember what we speak about. This was 22 years in the past. I solely remember the feeling. It is warm and right. It is beautiful. We are beautiful, all of us, together. We discuss and chortle but we’re quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we simply lie there within the silence at dusk. We’re someplace between day and night time. We’re someplace between woman and girl. It will final endlessly, I believe. 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 may have a woman. She’s going to title her Jamaica. She by no means 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 large 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 was about to jump on a moped with a good friend, 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 on your sneakers.” And I was like no manner, and i saved chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you need not journey on a moped with sandals.” And that i lastly stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she stated really quick and a little bit louder, “As a result of anything may occur on that bike and you must be prepared and also you cannot do shit in these sandals.” And I used to be like, no matter Erica. And she obtained actual low and mentioned, “Eisa, I need you to wear your sneakers.” And i appeared her in the eye and mentioned no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “Eisa, take these sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And that i obtained actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I’ve a picture of Gree and me on the moped that evening. I am smiling and protected. I am also carrying my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying Aisha and me her room, her pals, her life there.
Throughout that very 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 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 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 girl. Each recollections are candy.
I remember strolling by means of the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to purchase these prairie print dresses we really appeared 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 might go to Erica’s and activate NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Uncooked. Stone Island Jackets The entire thing. She did that each week.
But there are more memories that can assist you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Crimson Lobster with Erica as a result of she cherished 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 actually trusted me and respected my opinion. We became even closer buddies after I had my kids because Erica beloved children and had a pure means with them.”
However this does not actually categorical how necessary Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was right. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I think The World should know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she known as Nikki and informed her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki virtually felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me the place she would journey her bike to go get her hair carried out,” considered one of the most important details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming again to Sarah Lawrence, she known as Nikki and stated, “I am coming again. And that i wanna reside with you.” Nikki did not hesitate. “Accomplished.” They had been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to join them, their senior year.
Does this categorical the time spent speaking collectively about politics, movie star gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it specific the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only baby, she’s always been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana said,
“The thing I admired a lot about Erica is that she deferred to nobody. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she referred to as me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we have been speaking in regards to the deal’s press protection. I used to be capable of get a photograph of Erica within the paper — a stupendous one, natch. However she was outraged that Selection ran a photograph of Harvey Weinstein as an alternative of her. ‘It isn’t like he wrote the ebook,’ she deadpanned. And i just had to giggle. She was right, after all. 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.”
However this does not tell The World how Tatiana came into our circle after we might 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 additionally would 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 so much about our Erica:
“You and Aish had been taking your junior 12 months away. I was mainly alone. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Battle, and Reconstruction.” There have been a number of white peeps in the category however principally it was girls of shade. Erica was a freshman and clearly I seen her. Sturdy and quiet. Lovely. Perhaps a bit of intimidating, though she was two years my junior. Remember I was certainly one of the one white women in a category with a fairly charged subject. In the future, we were 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 again, wishing they’d develop. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I seen and at last, bravely provided ‘I’ve these items of hair, I simply can’t get them to stay down. They don’t grow. It’s so annoying.’ Erica mentioned, ‘So, you’re saying you have got 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 buddies.”
I wish I had area to explain to The World the beat and pulse and vitality of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel can be in town dancing. The best way you dance with your girl in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you are in a moment together. A moment as big as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The way in which they rolled favored that by way of the town.
The town was about 30 minutes away from where we all lived together in faculty. And we all 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 property. It was like residing with household. Erica handled her ladies like family.
Just some years ago, when Aisha and Erica started Diego Garcia they had a sale at Aisha’s house in the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased 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 buy both, 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 surprise. Does it tell The World how she gave without gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Theory, a treatise on womanhood that she developed throughout her year at Oxford, two decades earlier than 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. When i read it, I told her what I assumed. “You’re a very good author, Erica,” I said on the phone. “Really good.” I can tell you we will always have The Lobster Theory of Love, but I am unable to inform you the actual Lobster Concept. (I simply can’t.)
So I’ll ask you to stay with me as I tell you, The World, this story, this memory. I feel it may 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 college and into the evening, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of the city. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed tougher on the gas pedal, fueled by the Friday night grasp combine and the recent air of righteousness fogging the windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We were on our method to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a certain rock band. He had been relationship Rachel, had stopped dating her, and had her belt, a very nice belt. We have been determined to get it back. To get him again. You know.
It was about the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the city, strode backstage (not a difficult factor for us at all), and that i do remember my finger and neck transferring again and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would send Rachel the belt.
We showed him.
After the show we girls sat in the car eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare acquired right into a fight, 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 also threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, loads, and we screamed, too much, and for a very long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and eventually the police got here, 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 information and ultimately figured the taxi driver should’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 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 sure 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 i followed his black car with the crimson; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condo, and me and my women ended up selecting out afro wigs for an enormous a part of that night time earlier than we settled in sufficient to really crash and sleep until the next morning when we drove back to school in a busted up Ford Festiva that would by no means get correctly repaired since we’d by no means have the ability to file an insurance coverage declare with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And after all that, Erica just stated, “Instructed you you shouldn’t go.”
See, it was Aisha, and Rachel, and Nikki, and that i in a Ford Festiva. Erica refused to go together with us. Once 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 don’t get it.”
And when we tried to persuade her that this was our mission, that we just had to accept it, she merely stated 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 fairly dramatically shook her duvet and received in the mattress.
She was proper, in fact. The man by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so although Erica wasn’t in the automobile with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Instructed you you should not go” the next 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, basic, wild, crazy, bananas college experience. And so after all she was within the automotive with us, the whole method there and back, even though she was the only one with sense enough to know not to be.
Erica was always smarter than us. Than all of us put together.
I like to think about us all rolling collectively like we did that night time we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the many years ready for us up ahead. Erica will not ever be in the car with us. Not ever again. However the story, our story, won’t ever be full with out her. She’s going to at all times be riding with us. Someway. Her presence guiding us, properly, 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 will likely be with us that means.