Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t want to jot down in the past tense. I need to use the previous tense not only as a result of I am writing in regards to the past, but additionally as a result of I am writing about proper now. This present. This presence. My sister. Our expensive, lovely, superb, great, sensible, sharp sister. Who is 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 believe I am telling you this and you are at the airport,” I felt the last second of my personal stability tick tock away. In the following breath she told me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound came out of me, and i cried, and that i didn’t 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 isn’t about me. It’s about our girlfriend. I’m supposed to communicate to the world what she meant to us. I do not suppose this is feasible. She is – was – too too far past words. How am I to speak her love, expressed with a simple brush of cheek against cheek The delight in her smile, the best way she gazed at our children, the ones Aisha, Rachel, and that i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she loved so deeply just because they, in fact, 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 sort this as a result of it hurts too much to write about her this manner
I do not 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 after we did it, and with whom. I will try to express friendship that spanned over two a long time. That was alleged to last a lifetime.
As I pulled pictures to go with these phrases, I remembered how brilliant and stunning she all the time was. How it all came together. I remembered the place all of it started.
This is one reminiscence: We are at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a picket shack on the beach. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively on a mattress and talk. I remember feeling stunning, 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 one 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 second when it is just too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but properly before it is evening. When the sun is low but the air continues to be heat. This is the one time our 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 collectively and watch for them, and we speak. I do not remember what we talk about. This was 22 years in the past. I solely remember the feeling. It is heat and right. It is gorgeous. We are stunning, all of us, together. We discuss and snort however we are quiet, too. For long stretches we simply lie there in the silence at dusk. We are somewhere between day and night. We’re someplace between lady and lady. This will 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 can have a baby. She can have a girl. She’s going to identify her Jamaica. She by no means has to elucidate 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 round her like a chrysalis. She reached out to hold my hand. She stored me secure 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 putting on my actually cute footwear, and she mentioned, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And i stated yeah and stored chatting to Aisha and she stated, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I was like no method, and that i saved chatting. And she said, “Eisa, you needn’t trip on a moped with sandals.” And i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she said actually fast and somewhat louder, “Because anything could occur on that bike and also you need to be ready and also you can’t do shit in these sandals.” And I was like, whatever Erica. And she received actual low and said, “Eisa, I want you to put on your sneakers.” And that i appeared her in the eye and said no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your damn sneakers on now.” And i obtained actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing happened.
I’ve an image of Gree and me on the moped that night. I’m smiling and secure. I’m also sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, exhibiting Aisha and me her room, her buddies, her life there.
During that very 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 ago. Anyway, we were backstage with the Hip Hop groups who carried out that night, and I was starving. I had not eaten much since landing at Gatwick, racing to the hotel to satisfy Erica, and heading into the London streets. I used to be eating oranges. There was a bowl of oranges within the greenroom, and I was eating orange after orange after orange. So I remember these oranges. And partying with my girl. Each memories are sweet.
I remember walking by the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to purchase these prairie print dresses we actually seemed 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.
However there are extra memories to help 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’d read her first few draft chapters of Bling and feeling very honored that she really trusted me and revered my opinion. We grew to become even nearer associates after I had my kids because Erica loved kids and had a pure method with them.”
However this would not actually specific how essential Aisha was to Erica. Rachel referred to as Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was right. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I feel The World should know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she called Nikki and instructed her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki virtually felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me where she would ride her bike to go get her hair performed,” one in every of a very powerful details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming again to Sarah Lawrence, she referred to as Nikki and stated, “I’m coming again. And i wanna live with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Completed.” They were suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to affix them, their senior 12 months.
Does this specific the time spent speaking together about politics, celebrity gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – yes – hair Does it categorical the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an solely child, she’s at all times been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana mentioned,
“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 stone island jacket beige on the Hollywood Reporter, and we were talking about the deal’s press protection. I was able to get a photograph of Erica within the paper — a lovely one, natch. But she was outraged that Selection ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as a substitute of her. ‘It’s not like he wrote the guide,’ she deadpanned. And i simply needed to giggle. She was right, after all. 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.”
But this would 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 before she married a guy who did go to varsity with us. And this story also does not tell 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 may tell The World what Rachel remembers, which tells a lot about our Erica:
“You and Aish have been taking your junior year away. I used to be basically alone. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction.” There have been a couple of white peeps in the category but principally it was girls of color. Erica was a freshman and obviously I seen her. Sturdy and quiet. Beautiful. Maybe a little bit intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be stone island jacket beige one in all the one white ladies in a category with a pretty charged topic. Someday, we were two of a few left within 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 again, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I observed and finally, bravely supplied ‘I have these items of hair, I just can’t get them to remain down. They do not develop. It’s so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you are saying you have got breakage.’
Breakage I by no means heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Yes, I do.’
To which Erica said in that inimitable Erica straight-faced method ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we were mates.”
I want I had space to describe 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 with your girl in baggy denims and jackets and knapsacks and really feel, know, you are in a moment collectively. A moment as large as Hip Hop in New York within the 80s. The way they rolled favored that through town.
Town was about 30 minutes away from the place we all lived collectively in college. And we all did live together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with lower than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like growing up on one 1,000 individual family estate. It was like living with household. Erica handled her girls like household.
Just a few years ago, when Aisha and Erica started 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 but agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing again then and could solely afford one. She made her choice, regretted not having the sources to purchase each, and went for a swim. When she came back, Erica had folded the dress Camille could not afford and positioned it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a complete surprise. Does it tell The World how she gave with out gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all of the Lobster Theory, a treatise on womanhood that she developed during her 12 months at Oxford, two decades before 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. After i read it, I instructed her what I assumed. “You’re a really good writer, Erica,” I stated on the phone. “Really good.” I can inform you we are going to always have The Lobster Principle of Love, however I am unable to inform you the precise Lobster Principle. (I simply can’t.)
So I will ask you to stick with me as I let you know, The World, this story, this memory. I feel it may be all I’ve left to offer you:
We sped down the Hudson River Parkway, away from the rolling lawns and stone buildings of our tiny suburban school and into the night time, 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 night grasp mix and the recent 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 dating Rachel, had stopped relationship her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We were decided to get it back. To get him back. You realize.
It was concerning the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a tough thing 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 the show we women sat in the automotive eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this occurred:
A taxi driver and his fare bought into a fight, the cab U-turned on third 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 in addition threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, too much, and we screamed, lots, and for a very long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and eventually the police came, and the police officer advised me to only stay 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 night time’s money to repay the cop), and then in spite of everything that it started to snow, and I was like, ‘There is no approach I’m gonna drive us again 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 known as me back on the pay telephone, and I used to be like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and within minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and i adopted his black automotive with the crimson; black; and inexperienced flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condominium, and me and my girls ended up choosing out afro wigs for a big part of that night time before we settled in enough to actually crash and sleep till the following 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 coverage declare with the faux report the cop wrote out.
And after all that, Erica just said, “Advised you you should not go.”
See, it was Aisha, and Rachel, and Nikki, and i in a Ford Festiva. Erica refused to go together with us. After we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we simply Needed to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, 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 simply accept it, she simply said this: “You shouldn’t go. This is stupid.” And once we have been all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she rather dramatically shook her duvet and acquired in the mattress.
She was proper, after all. The guy never even sent Rachel her belt.
And so regardless that Erica wasn’t within the automotive with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Advised you you shouldn’t go” the subsequent morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a lower frequency in my brain for the rest of my life.
It was a hall-of-fame, basic, wild, crazy, bananas school experience. And so in fact she was in the automobile with us, the whole means there and again, although she was the just one with sense sufficient to know not to be.
Erica was all the time smarter than us. Than all of us put together.
I like to think about us all rolling together like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the many years ready for us up ahead. Erica will not ever be in the automotive with us. Not ever once more. But the story, our story, will never be full without her. She’s going to at all times be riding with us. Someway. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo in the tales we will remember and inform after we reach that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our power willing her presence back to us. Erica can be with us that manner.