Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Good friend, Erica Kennedy
I don’t want to jot down in the past tense. I have to use the previous tense not only as a result of I am writing about the previous, but in addition because I’m writing about right now. This current. This presence. My sister. Our dear, lovely, superb, fantastic, 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 am unable to even imagine I’m telling you this and you’re at the airport,” I felt the final second of my personal stability tick tock away. In the next breath she informed me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound got here out of me, and i cried, and that i didn’t care that others were watching me as this sound came out of me and that i cried. And I’ve been unstable ever since.
However this is not about me. It’s about our girlfriend. I’m supposed to communicate to the world what she meant to us. I don’t 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 in opposition to cheek The delight in her smile, the way she gazed at our kids, the ones Aisha, Rachel, and that i introduced into this world and our circle, and whom she beloved so deeply just because they, in fact, have been her children, 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 because it hurts a lot to write down about her this way
I do not assume I can communicate how she made us feel. So, I’ll try to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and when we did it, and with whom. I will attempt to specific friendship that spanned over two decades. That was presupposed to last a lifetime.
As I pulled pictures to go together with these words, I remembered how shiny and stunning she at all times was. How all of it came collectively. I remembered where all of it began.
That is one memory: We’re 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 mattress and talk. I remember feeling stunning, with all of them, together like that, on this shack on the seashore.
Nikki and Jane have run outside, through the parking lot, to the one guest shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on cold. Cinder blocks encompass the pipe and attain up toward the open sky. We now have all run to that shower for 2 weeks now, trying to bathe at that exact moment when it is simply too late within the day to swim or sunbathe, however well before it is evening. When the solar is low however the air remains to be heat. That is the one 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 i lie together and wait for them, and we talk. I don’t remember what we discuss. This was 22 years in the past. I only remember the feeling. It is 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 somewhere between day and night time. We’re somewhere between lady and woman. This can final without end, I believe. That is sisterhood. I do know I felt that then. I felt, ‘Sure. These are my sisters.’
A few years later, Rachel may have a child. She can have a woman. She’s going to name 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 airplane shook and bounced and rattled, and I was huge 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 carry my hand. She kept me safe like that.
And she kept me protected like this: I remember when I used to be about to jump on a moped with a friend, and I was placing on my really cute footwear, and she mentioned, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And that i said yeah and stored 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 mentioned, “Eisa, you don’t need to ride on a moped with sandals.” And that i lastly stopped chatting and stated why not And she mentioned really quick and a bit louder, “Because something could occur on that bike and you must 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 mentioned, “Eisa, I need you to wear your sneakers.” And i appeared her in the attention and said no. And she stamped her foot and said, “Eisa, take these sandals off and put your damn sneakers on now.” And i acquired actual quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing happened.
I have an image of Gree and me on the moped that night. I’m smiling and safe. I’m also carrying my Tretorns.
I remember her shiny stone island jacket at Oxford, showing Aisha and me her room, her pals, her life there.
During that very same journey 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 something like that. This was 21 years ago. Anyway, we have been backstage with the Hip Hop groups who performed that night, and I used to be starving. I had not eaten much since landing at Gatwick, racing to the lodge to satisfy Erica, and heading into the London streets. I used to be consuming 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. Both memories are sweet.
I remember walking by the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to purchase those prairie print dresses we actually regarded 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. Raw. The whole thing. She did that every week.
But there are extra reminiscences that will help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Red Lobster with Erica as a result of she liked 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 turned even closer pals after I had my kids as a result of Erica beloved children and had a natural means with them.”
However this doesn’t actually categorical how important Aisha was to Erica. Rachel known as 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 called 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 experience her bike to go get her hair finished,” one in every of crucial details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming again to Sarah Lawrence, she called Nikki and mentioned, “I am coming again. And that i wanna dwell with you.” Nikki didn’t hesitate. “Finished.” They were suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to hitch them, their senior year.
Does this categorical the time spent speaking collectively 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 youngster, she’s always been my sister.”
A fierce sister. Tatiana said,
“The thing I admired so much about Erica is that she deferred to nobody. Shortly after Miramax optioned her first novel Bling, she known as me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we were speaking in regards to the deal’s press coverage. I was capable of get a photograph of Erica in the paper — a fantastic one, natch. But she was outraged that Variety ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein as a substitute of her. ‘It isn’t like he wrote the book,’ she deadpanned. And i simply had to snicker. She was right, after all. Most individuals would have been satisfied to take second billing to an Oscar winner. However not Erica. And that was the kind of hutzpah that so defined her for me.”
However this would not inform The World how Tatiana came into our circle after we would all graduated, and the way we named her an honorary Sarah Lawrence alum even before she married a man who did go to school with us. And this story also does not 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 12 months away. I used to be principally alone. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction.” There were a couple of white peeps in the category but largely it was girls of colour. Erica was a freshman and obviously I noticed her. Robust and quiet. Lovely. Possibly a bit of intimidating, although she was two years my junior. Remember I was considered one of the only white girls in a class with a pretty charged topic. In the future, we have been two of some left in 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 noticed and eventually, bravely supplied ‘I’ve these pieces of hair, I simply can’t get them to remain down. They do not grow. It’s so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you are saying you’ve got breakage.’
Breakage I never heard of it. What a revelation!
I answered, ‘Sure, I do.’
To which Erica stated in that inimitable Erica straight-confronted means ‘that’s very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we have been mates.”
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 could be in town dancing. The way you dance with your lady in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you’re in a second collectively. A second as big as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The way in which they rolled liked that by means of town.
Town was about 30 minutes away from where all of us lived together in school. And we all did dwell collectively there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 different undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 particular person family property. It was like residing with family. Erica treated her girls like family.
Just some years in the past, when Aisha and Erica started Diego Garcia that they had a sale at Aisha’s house within 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 will solely afford one. She made her choice, regretted not having the resources to purchase both, and went for a swim. When she came again, Erica had folded the gown Camille couldn’t afford and placed it on her mattress.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a total 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 12 months at Oxford, two a long time 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 learn it, I advised her what I thought. “You’re a really good writer, Erica,” I stated on the telephone. “Really good.” I can let you know we’ll at all times have The Lobster Idea of Love, however I can not tell you the precise Lobster Principle. (I just can’t.)
So I will ask you to stay with me as I let you know, The World, this story, this memory. I feel it is perhaps 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 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 gas pedal, fueled by the Friday evening grasp mix and the recent air of righteousness fogging the windows of Nikki’s Ford Festiva.
We were on our way to CBGB’s to confront the lead singer of a certain rock band. He had been courting Rachel, had stopped relationship her, and had her belt, a really nice belt. We had been decided to get it back. To get him back. You already know.
It was about the belt but, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a difficult factor for us at all), and that i do remember my finger and neck moving again and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would ship Rachel the belt.
We showed him.
After the present we women sat in the car eating St. Marks pizza. After which, this occurred:
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 also threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, so much, and we screamed, loads, and for a very long time this lasted, and then the fare strode off, and finally the police came, and the police officer advised me to just keep within the automotive while he wrote a report (which we came upon later was a false report with no contact information 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 used to be like, ‘There isn’t a way I am gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay phone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a certain Hip Hop group with my code, and he called me again on the pay phone, and I was like, ‘Yo, you gotta come get us now!’ and within minutes he and Randy drove over from Chung King, and that i followed his black car with the pink; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black condominium, 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 enough to really crash and sleep until the subsequent morning once we drove again to highschool in a busted up Ford Festiva that may by no means get correctly repaired since we’d never have the ability to file an insurance coverage claim with the faux report the cop wrote out.
And after all that, Erica just stated, “Instructed 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. Once we pow-wowed in her dorm room about how we just Needed to get the belt back, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, informed us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And once 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. This is silly.” And after we have been all like, “We’re going” she was like, “No matter.” And she relatively dramatically shook her duvet and obtained within the bed.
She was right, of course. The guy by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so even though Erica wasn’t within the automotive with us, the story is incomplete with out her. Her “Informed you you should not go” the following morning has echoed these 22 years since and will sound on a decrease frequency in my brain for the rest of my life.
It was a hall-of-fame, traditional, wild, loopy, bananas faculty expertise. And so of course she was in the automobile with us, the entire way there and back, regardless that she was the just one with sense enough to know to not be.
Erica was at all times 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 decades waiting for us up forward. Erica won’t ever be within the car with us. Not ever again. However the story, our story, won’t ever be complete 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 within the stories we’ll remember and inform when we reach that future. We’ll conjure her identify, our energy prepared her presence again to us. Erica might be with us that way.