Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Good friend, Erica Kennedy
I do not want to write down previously tense. I need to use the previous tense not solely because I am writing in regards to the past, but also as a result of I’m writing about proper now. This present. This presence. My sister. Our dear, lovely, amazing, fantastic, 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 on the airport,” I felt the final second of my private stability tick tock away. In the next breath she told 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 had been watching me as this sound came out of me and that i cried. And I have been unstable ever since.
However this isn’t about me. It’s about our girlfriend. I am supposed to speak to the world what she meant to us. I do not suppose this is possible. She is – was – too too far past phrases. How am I to speak her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek against cheek The delight in her smile, the best way she gazed at our youngsters, those Aisha, Rachel, and that i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she liked so deeply just because they, after all, have been her youngsters, too How can I inform you, The World, what she meant to us all How I’m crying right now as I kind this because it hurts too much to write down about her this fashion
I do not suppose I can talk how she made us feel. So, I will attempt to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and when we did it, and with whom. I will strive to express friendship that spanned over two a long time. That was presupposed to final a lifetime.
As I pulled photos to go with these words, I remembered how brilliant and beautiful she at all times was. How it all came together. I remembered where it all started.
This is one memory: We are at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a wood shack on the seashore. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together on a bed and talk. 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 only visitor shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on cold. Cinder blocks surround the pipe and attain up towards the open sky. Now we have all run to that shower for 2 weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise moment when it is simply too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but properly before it’s evening. When the sun is low but the air remains to be warm. This is the one time our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot as it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together and anticipate them, and we discuss. I do not remember what we talk about. This was 22 years in the past. I only remember the feeling. It is heat and right. It is gorgeous. We’re lovely, all of us, together. We discuss and laugh but we are quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we simply lie there in the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and evening. We’re somewhere between lady and woman. This may final endlessly, I think. This is sisterhood. I do know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Yes. These are my sisters.’
Many years later, Rachel may have a baby. She can have a girl. She’s going to title 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 airplane shook and bounced and rattled, and I was vast awake and in prayer. I was 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 stored me protected like that.
And she saved me safe like this: I remember when I was about to leap on a moped with a buddy, and I used to be placing on my actually cute footwear, and she said, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And i said yeah and kept chatting to Aisha and she mentioned, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I was like no way, and that i saved chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you needn’t experience on a moped with sandals.” And i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she mentioned actually fast and somewhat louder, “Because anything could occur on that bike and also you have to be ready and also you cannot do shit in these sandals.” And I was like, whatever Erica. And she got actual low and mentioned, “Eisa, I would like you to put on your sneakers.” And i appeared her in the eye and said no. And she stamped her foot and stated, “Eisa, take these sandals off and put your rattling sneakers on now.” And i bought real quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing happened.
I have a picture of Gree and me on the moped that night time. I am smiling and secure. I am also wearing my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, exhibiting Aisha and me her room, her associates, her life there.
Throughout that 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 had been backstage with the Hip Hop groups who carried out that night, and I was starving. I had not eaten much since touchdown at Gatwick, racing to the hotel to meet Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was consuming 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 lady. Both reminiscences are candy.
I remember walking via the flea market on West 4th here in New York to purchase these prairie print dresses we actually appeared fairly 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’d go to Erica’s and activate NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Uncooked. The whole thing. She did that every week.
However there are more reminiscences that will 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 would learn her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she really trusted me and respected my opinion. We became even closer friends after I had my youngsters as a result of Erica beloved kids and had a pure approach with them.”
But this would not actually specific how necessary Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I feel The World ought to know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she called Nikki and advised her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki almost stone island duffle coat felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me where she would experience her bike to go get her hair performed,” one of a very powerful particulars to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she called Nikki and said, “I am coming back. And i wanna dwell with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Performed.” They have been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to affix them, their senior year.
Does this express the time spent talking collectively about politics, superstar gossip, guys, world events, fears, hopes, and – yes – hair Does it specific the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an solely child, she’s at all times been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana stated,
“The factor I admired so much about Erica is that she deferred to no one. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she called me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we had been speaking about the deal’s press coverage. I was able to get a photograph of Erica in the paper — a lovely one, natch. But she was outraged that Variety ran a photograph of Harvey Weinstein as an alternative of her. ‘It’s not like he wrote the e book,’ she deadpanned. And i simply had to snigger. She was right, of course. Most people would have been satisfied to take second billing to an Oscar winner. However not Erica. And that was the sort of hutzpah that so defined her for me.”
However this doesn’t inform The World how Tatiana got here into our circle after we would all graduated, and the way we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even before she married a guy who did go to varsity 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 one another’s snazzy one-liners.
I may tell 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 War, and Reconstruction.” There have been a couple of white peeps in the category but largely it was women of shade. Erica was a freshman and obviously I observed her. Sturdy and quiet. Stunning. Perhaps just a little intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I was certainly one of the only white girls in a class with a pretty charged subject. Someday, we were two of some left in the room. I was pulling my curly hair back right into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that stuck out above my ears. Pressing them again, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I seen and finally, bravely provided ‘I have these pieces of hair, I just can’t get them to stay down. They don’t grow. It is so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you are saying you may have breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Sure, I do.’
To which Erica mentioned in that inimitable Erica straight-confronted manner ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we were mates.”
I wish I had space to explain to The World the beat and pulse and energy of Hip Hop in the 80s, when Erica and Rachel would be in town dancing. The way in which you dance together with your lady in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you are in a second together. A moment as huge as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The way they rolled liked that via the town.
The town was about half-hour away from the place all of us lived collectively in college. And all of us did stay collectively there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 person household estate. It was like residing with household. Erica treated her women like household.
Just some years ago, when Aisha and Erica began Diego Garcia they’d a sale at Aisha’s home in the Hamptons. Camille happened to be visiting that weekend, and she purchased one skirt however agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing back then and could solely afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the resources to purchase each, and went for a swim. When she came back, Erica had folded the dress Camille couldn’t afford and positioned it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a complete shock. Does it tell The World how she gave without gush, with out pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Idea, 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. After i read it, I told her what I thought. “You are a really good writer, Erica,” I mentioned on the cellphone. “Really good.” I can tell you we are going to all the time have The Lobster Idea of Love, however I am unable to inform you the actual Lobster Theory. (I just can’t.)
So I will ask you to stay with me as I inform you, The World, this story, this memory. I believe it might 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 evening, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of the town. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed tougher on the fuel pedal, fueled by the Friday night grasp mix and the new air of righteousness fogging the 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 courting Rachel, had stopped courting her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We were decided to get it again. To get him again. You already know.
It was in regards to the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into the town, strode backstage (not a tough factor 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 ship Rachel the belt.
We showed him.
After the present we ladies sat within the automobile eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare acquired into a combat, 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 likewise 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 eventually the police came, and the police officer told me to just keep within the automobile 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), and then in any case that it began to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There isn’t any manner I am gonna drive us back to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay cellphone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a certain Hip Hop group with my code, and he referred to as me back 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 that i adopted his black automobile 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 a big part of that night before we settled in sufficient to actually stone island duffle coat crash and sleep till the subsequent morning when we drove back to school in a busted up Ford Festiva that might never get correctly repaired since we might never be able to file an insurance declare with the fake report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just said, “Told 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. When we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we simply Had to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite knowledge, told us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And when we tried to convince her that this was our mission, that we simply had to just accept it, she simply stated this: “You should not go. This is stupid.” And after we were all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she fairly dramatically shook her duvet and got in the mattress.
She was proper, after all. The man never even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so despite the fact that Erica wasn’t in the car with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Told you you should not go” the next morning has echoed these 22 years since and will sound on a decrease frequency in my mind for the rest of my life.
It was a hall-of-fame, basic, wild, loopy, bananas college expertise. And so in fact she was in the automotive with us, the entire approach there and back, though she was the just one with sense enough to know to not be.
Erica was all the time smarter than us. Than all of us put together.
I like to think of us all rolling collectively like we did that night we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the decades waiting for us up forward. Erica won’t ever be within the automobile with us. Not ever again. However the story, our story, won’t ever be complete with out her. She will always be riding with us. One way or the other. Her presence guiding us, properly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo within the stories we’ll remember and inform after we reach that future. We’ll conjure her title, our energy keen her presence again to us. Erica will be with us that approach.