Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Pal, Erica Kennedy
I don’t want to jot down up to now tense. I have to use the previous tense not solely as a result of I am writing in regards to the previous, but additionally because I’m writing about right now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our pricey, lovely, amazing, wonderful, smart, 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 can’t even believe I’m telling you this and you’re on the airport,” I felt the last moment of my private stability tick tock away. In the subsequent breath she told me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound got here out of me, and that i cried, and i did not care that others had been watching me as this sound got here out of me and i cried. And I have been unstable ever since.
However this is not about me. It is about our girlfriend. I am supposed to speak to the world what she meant to us. I do not think this is possible. She is – was – too too far beyond phrases. How am I to communicate 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 i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she loved so deeply simply because they, of course, 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 type this because it hurts an excessive amount of to write down about her this way
I do not suppose I can communicate how she made us feel. So, I will attempt to share what. What we did, and how 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 purported to final a lifetime.
As I pulled pictures to go with these words, I remembered how vibrant and beautiful she all the time was. How all of it came collectively. I remembered where it all began.
That is one memory: We’re at Alfred’s Ocean Palace, and Alfred’s Ocean Palace is a picket shack on the beach. Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together on a bed and speak. I remember feeling beautiful, with all of them, together like that, on this shack on the seaside.
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’ve all run to that shower for two weeks now, attempting to bathe at that precise moment when it is just too late within the day to swim or sunbathe, however well earlier than it’s night time. When the solar is low but the air continues to be warm. That is the only time our bodies can take the chilly that shoots from the spigot because it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and i lie together and wait for them, and we talk. I don’t remember what we speak about. This was 22 years ago. I only remember the feeling. It’s warm and proper. It is beautiful. We’re beautiful, all of us, together. We speak and laugh but we’re quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we just lie there within the silence at dusk. We’re someplace between day and night. We are somewhere between lady and woman. This may last eternally, I think. This is sisterhood. I know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Sure. These are my sisters.’
A few years later, Rachel could have a child. She could have a girl. She will identify her Jamaica. She never has to explain 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 was by no means 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 carry my hand. She kept me safe like that.
And she kept me secure like this: I remember when I was about to jump on a moped with a friend, and I was placing on my really cute sneakers, and she stated, “Eisa, are you going on Gree’s moped tonight ” And that i said yeah and kept chatting to Aisha and she said, “Eisa, put in your sneakers.” And I used to be like no way, and i saved chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you don’t need to ride on a moped with sandals.” And that i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she stated really quick and a bit louder, “As a result of something could happen on that bike and you should be prepared and you cannot do shit in those sandals.” And I used to be like, no matter Erica. And she got real low and stated, “Eisa, I would like you to wear your sneakers.” And i regarded her in the attention 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 received actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing happened.
I’ve a picture of Gree and me on the moped that evening. I’m smiling and secure. I’m also sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, exhibiting Aisha and me her room, her friends, her life there.
Throughout that very same trip to Europe, Erica and i danced at a live performance at Hammersmith Odeon. We were 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 evening, and I was starving. I had not eaten a lot since touchdown at Gatwick, racing to the resort to meet Erica, and heading into the London streets. I was eating 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 woman. Both recollections are candy.
I remember strolling via the flea market on West 4th here in New York to purchase those prairie print dresses we really looked 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 turn on NBC. And Erica would eat chocolate chip cookie dough from the log. Uncooked. The entire thing. She did that each week.
But there are more reminiscences that can assist you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many journeys 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 buddies after I had my youngsters as a result of Erica liked youngsters and had a natural means with them.”
But this doesn’t actually specific how vital Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was proper. Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I think The World ought to know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she referred to as Nikki and advised her all about her life, filling her in so Nikki almost felt like she was going to Oxford, too. “She would inform me the place she would trip her bike to go get her hair achieved,” considered one of an important details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming again to Sarah Lawrence, she called Nikki and said, “I am coming again. And that i wanna stay with you.” Nikki did not hesitate. “Carried out.” They had been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to affix them, their senior year.
Does this express the time spent talking collectively about politics, celeb gossip, guys, world occasions, fears, hopes, and – sure – hair Does it express the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an only youngster, she’s always been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana stated,
“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 on the Hollywood Reporter, and we have been talking in regards to the deal’s press coverage. I was capable of get a photo of Erica within the paper — an attractive one, natch. But she was outraged that Variety 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 proper, of course. Most people would have been glad to take second billing to an Oscar winner. But not Erica. And that was the sort of hutzpah that so outlined her for me.”
However this doesn’t 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 school with us. And this story also does not tell how Erica and Tatiana would banter. On a regular basis. How they cracked each other up, and admired each other’s snazzy one-liners.
I might tell The World what Rachel remembers, which tells a lot about our Erica:
“You and Aish have been taking your junior yr away. I was principally by myself. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Conflict, and Reconstruction.” There have been just a few white peeps in the class however largely it was girls of color. Erica was a freshman and clearly I seen her. Strong and quiet. Beautiful. Possibly slightly intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be certainly one of the only white women in a class with a fairly charged subject. Sooner or later, we were two of some left in the room. I used to be pulling my curly hair again into a pony tail and fussing with the little wisps of hair that caught out above my ears. Urgent them back, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I noticed and finally, bravely offered ‘I’ve these pieces of hair, I simply cannot get them to stay down. They don’t grow. It is so annoying.’ Erica said, ‘So, you’re saying you’ve breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Yes, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-faced manner ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we were buddies.”
I want I had space 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 way you dance along with your lady in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you are in a second together. A second as big as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The way in which they rolled liked that by the city.
The city was about 30 minutes away from the place we all lived together in faculty. And we all did stay together there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with lower than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 individual family property. It was like living with family. 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 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 could solely afford one. She made her alternative, regretted not having the sources to purchase both, and went for a swim. When she came again, Erica had folded the dress Camille couldn’t afford and positioned it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a total surprise. Does it tell The World how she gave with out gush, with out pomp or expectation
And she gave us all of the Lobster Idea, a treatise on womanhood that she developed during her 12 months at Oxford, two many years 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 thought. “You are a really good author, Erica,” I stated on the cellphone. “Really good.” I can let you know we’ll always have The Lobster Idea of Love, but I can not let you know the precise Lobster Theory. (I just 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 might 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 school and into the night time, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of the city. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed harder on the gasoline pedal, fueled by the Friday night time grasp mix and the hot air of righteousness fogging the home windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We were on our strategy to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a sure rock band. He had been courting Rachel, had stopped relationship her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We have been decided to get it back. To get him again. You already know.
It was about the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a tough factor for us in any respect), 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 women sat in the automotive eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this occurred:
A taxi driver and his fare acquired right into a battle, 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, loads, and we screamed, loads, and for a very long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and ultimately the police came, and the police officer told me to simply keep within the automobile whereas he wrote a report (which we discovered later was a false report with no contact data and finally figured the taxi driver should’ve given up that evening’s money to repay the cop), after which in spite of everything that it began to snow, and I used to be like, ‘There is no such thing as a means I’m gonna drive us back to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay cellphone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a sure Hip Hop group with my code, and he called me back on the pay telephone, and I was like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and inside minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and i adopted his black automobile with the crimson; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condominium, and me and my girls ended up picking out afro wigs for a giant a part of that night before we settled in sufficient to actually crash and sleep till the subsequent morning when we drove again to highschool in a busted up Ford Festiva that may by no means get correctly repaired since we’d never be able to file an insurance coverage declare with the pretend report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just said, “Informed 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 back, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, informed us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And when we tried to persuade her that this was our mission, that we simply had to accept it, she merely stated this: “You should not cappotto stone island go. This is stupid.” And after we have been all like, “We’re going” she was like, “No matter.” And she moderately dramatically shook her duvet and got within the mattress.
She was proper, of course. The guy by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so even though Erica wasn’t within the automobile with us, the story is incomplete with out her. Her “Informed you you should not go” the next morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a decrease frequency in my brain for the remainder of my life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, traditional, wild, crazy, bananas faculty expertise. And so after all she was in the automotive with us, the entire means there and back, despite the fact 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 together.
I like to consider us all rolling collectively like we did that night we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the a long time waiting for us up ahead. Erica won’t ever be within the automobile with us. Not ever again. However the story, our story, won’t ever be full with out her. She is going to all the time be riding with us. Someway. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo in the stories we are going to remember and inform once we reach that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our power prepared her presence back to us. Erica might be with us that method.