Eisa Ulen Remembers Her Buddy, Erica Kennedy
I do not want to put in writing up to now tense. I need to use the past tense not solely as a result of I am writing in regards to the previous, but additionally as a result of I’m writing about right now. This present. This presence. My sister. Our pricey, lovely, wonderful, great, good, sharp sister. Who is now gone from this earth, and but so very present. A presence.
As I stood in JFK and heard Nikki say, “I can not even imagine I am telling you this and you are on the airport,” I felt the final moment of my personal stability tick tock away. In the following breath she advised me about Erica. Our Erica. Our sister Erica. A sound came out of me, and that i cried, and i did not care that others have been watching me as this sound came out of me and i cried. And I have been unstable ever since.
However this isn’t about me. It’s about our girlfriend. I am 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 phrases. How am I to communicate her love, expressed with a easy brush of cheek towards cheek The delight in her smile, the way she gazed at our kids, the ones Aisha, Rachel, and that i brought into this world and our circle, and whom she cherished so deeply just because they, of course, were her children, 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 about her this fashion
I don’t suppose I can talk how she made us feel. So, I will try to share what. What we did, and the way we did it, and after we did it, and with whom. I will strive to specific friendship that spanned over two many years. That was presupposed to final a lifetime.
As I pulled footage to go together with these words, I remembered how bright and stunning she all the time was. How all of it came collectively. I remembered where all of it began.
That is one reminiscence: 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 collectively on a mattress and speak. I remember feeling lovely, with all of them, together like that, on this shack on the seashore.
Nikki and Jane have run exterior, by the parking lot, to the only guest shower on the property, a pipe with a spigot and one knob set on cold. Cinder blocks encompass the pipe and reach up towards the open sky. We’ve all run to that shower for two weeks now, attempting to bathe at that exact second when it is simply too late in the day to swim or sunbathe, but well earlier than it is night time. When the sun is low but the air continues to be warm. That is the only time our bodies can take the cold that shoots from the spigot because it blasts salt and sand from our skin.
Aisha, Rachel, Erica, and that i lie collectively and look ahead to them, and we speak. I do not remember what we discuss. This was 22 years ago. I only remember the feeling. It’s warm and right. It is beautiful. We are stunning, all of us, together. We discuss and chortle but we’re quiet, too. For lengthy stretches we just lie there in the silence at dusk. We are someplace between day and night time. We’re someplace between lady and woman. This may last eternally, I feel. That is sisterhood. I do 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 lady. She’s going to identify her Jamaica. She never has to clarify to any of us why she chooses this title for her daughter.
On the return flight from the island, the aircraft shook and bounced and rattled, and I used to be huge awake and in prayer. I used to be 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 saved me secure like that.
And she kept me secure like this: I remember when I was about to leap on a moped with a good friend, and I was placing on my actually cute sneakers, and she mentioned, “Eisa, are you occurring Gree’s moped tonight ” And i mentioned yeah and saved chatting to Aisha and she stated, “Eisa, put on your sneakers.” And I used to be like no means, and that i stored chatting. And she stated, “Eisa, you need not trip on a moped with sandals.” And that i finally stopped chatting and mentioned why not And she stated actually fast and somewhat louder, “As a result of something may happen on that bike and also you should be prepared and also you can’t do shit in those sandals.” And I used to be like, whatever Erica. And she received real low and mentioned, “Eisa, I need you to put on your sneakers.” And that i regarded her in the eye and stated no. And she stamped her foot and mentioned, “Eisa, take those sandals off and put your damn sneakers on now.” And i received real quiet after that and for, like, a second, nothing occurred.
I have an image of Gree and me on the moped that night time. I’m smiling and protected. I am also sporting my Tretorns.
I remember her at Oxford, displaying 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 in the past. Anyway, we have been backstage with the Hip Hop teams who carried out 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 eating 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 memories are sweet.
I remember strolling via the flea market on West 4th right here in New York to purchase these prairie print dresses we really seemed pretty good in.
I remember sitting in her dorm room at Sarah Lawrence each Thursday at 8:00 sharp. Nikki would drive us to get KFC, and we would 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.
But there are more recollections that will help you see her, who Erica was. Aisha says, “I remember many trips to Pink Lobster with Erica as a result of 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 actually trusted me and respected my opinion. We turned even nearer associates after I had my children because Erica loved kids and had a pure manner with them.”
However this would not actually express how important Aisha was to Erica. Rachel called Aisha Erica’s lifeline. She was right. island stone maui Aisha was Erica’s lifeline. I feel The World ought to know that.
When Erica went away to Oxford, she called Nikki and informed 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 ride her bike to go get her hair done,” one in every of the most important details to share with a sister. When Erica was coming back to Sarah Lawrence, she referred to as Nikki and said, “I am coming back. And that i wanna reside with you.” Nikki did not hesitate. “Done.” They had been suitemates, sharing two rooms with a bathroom to join them, their senior yr.
Does this express the time spent speaking together about politics, movie star gossip, guys, world events, fears, hopes, and – yes – hair Does it categorical the depth of emotion when Nikki says, “Being an solely youngster, she’s at all times 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 referred to as me on the Hollywood Reporter, and we were speaking concerning the deal’s press protection. I was able to get a photo of Erica in the paper — a wonderful one, natch. However she was outraged that Variety ran a photo of Harvey Weinstein instead of her. ‘It’s not like he wrote the e-book,’ she deadpanned. And i just had to chuckle. She was proper, of course. Most people would have been happy 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 does not tell 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 earlier than she married a guy who did go to college with us. And this story additionally doesn’t tell how Erica and Tatiana would banter. All the time. How they cracked one another up, and admired each other’s snazzy one-liners.
I might tell The World what Rachel remembers, which tells so much about our Erica:
“You and Aish have been taking your junior year away. I was basically on my own. I signed up for “Slavery, Civil Battle, and Reconstruction.” There were a number of white peeps in the category however mostly it was women of coloration. Erica was a freshman and clearly I seen her. Sturdy and quiet. Stunning. Perhaps slightly intimidating, though she was two years my junior. Remember I used to be one among the one white ladies in a category with a pretty charged subject. One day, we had been two of some left within the room. I used to be 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 back, wishing they’d grow. Erica was quietly, intently watching me. I noticed and at last, bravely provided ‘I have these pieces of hair, I simply cannot get them to remain down. They do not grow. It is so annoying.’ Erica stated, ‘So, you’re saying you 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-faced method ‘that is very Black of you, Rachel.’
After that we had been buddies.”
I wish I had area to explain to The World the beat and pulse and energy of Hip Hop within the 80s, when Erica and Rachel could be in town dancing. The best way you dance along with your girl in baggy jeans and jackets and knapsacks and feel, know, you might be in a second together. A second as huge as Hip Hop in New York in the 80s. The best way they rolled liked that by means of the town.
The city was about 30 minutes away from where all of us lived together in college. And all of us did live collectively there. Going to Sarah Lawrence with less than 999 other undergraduates was kinda like rising up on one 1,000 person household estate. It was like residing with household. Erica treated her ladies like household.
Just some years in the past, when Aisha and Erica started Diego Garcia they’d a sale at Aisha’s home within the Hamptons. Camille occurred to be visiting that weekend, and she bought one skirt however agonized over two dresses. Camille was freelancing again then and will solely afford one. She made her choice, regretted not having the resources to buy both, and went for a swim. When she got here back, Erica had folded the dress Camille could not afford and placed it on her bed.
It was the sweetest gesture however not a total surprise. Does it inform The World how she gave without gush, without pomp or expectation
And she gave us all the Lobster Concept, a treatise on womanhood that she developed during her yr at Oxford, two decades before 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 advised her what I assumed. “You’re a really good author, Erica,” I stated on the cellphone. “Actually good.” I can tell you we will always have The Lobster Concept of Love, however I can not inform you the precise Lobster Principle. (I simply cannot.)
So I’ll ask you to stay with me as I tell you, The World, this story, this reminiscence. I feel it could 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 school and into the night time, into the flashing lights, and the blasting air of town. I drove, flipped from BLS to KISS, and pressed tougher on the gasoline pedal, fueled by the Friday night master 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 have been determined to get it again. To get him back. You recognize.
It was in regards to the belt however, like, it wasn’t.
Anyway, we roared into town, strode backstage (not a troublesome factor for us at all), and that i do remember my finger and neck transferring back and forth. He was penitent, even pensive. He swore he would ship Rachel the belt.
We confirmed him.
After the present we girls sat in the automotive eating St. Marks pizza. And then, this happened:
A taxi driver and his fare got 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 in addition threw him on the hood of the Ford Festiva, and hit him, quite a bit, and we screamed, so much, and for a very long time this lasted, after which the fare strode off, and ultimately the police got here, and the police officer advised me to only stay in the car while he wrote a report (which we came upon later was a false report with no contact info and ultimately figured the taxi driver must’ve given up that evening’s money to pay off the cop), and then in any case that it began to snow, and I was like, ‘There is no means I am gonna drive us again to Sarah Lawrence,’ and so I walked to a pay telephone and Sky-Paged the DJ of a certain Hip Hop group with my code, and he known as me back 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 adopted his black car with the pink; black; and green flag on the antenna to his black on black on black apartment, and me and my girls ended up picking out afro wigs for a giant part of that night earlier than we settled in sufficient to essentially crash and sleep until the following morning after we drove again to high school in a busted up Ford Festiva that may never get correctly repaired since we’d by no means have the ability to file an insurance coverage claim with the fake report the cop wrote out.
And in any case that, Erica just mentioned, “Advised you you shouldn’t 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 simply Needed to get the belt again, Erica, in her infinite wisdom, instructed us this: “Like, I do not get it.”
And once we tried to persuade her that this was our mission, that we simply had to accept it, she simply stated this: “You shouldn’t go. This is stupid.” And after we had been all like, “We are going” she was like, “Whatever.” And she slightly dramatically shook her duvet and received in the bed.
She was proper, in fact. The guy by no means even despatched Rachel her belt.
And so although Erica wasn’t within the car with us, the story is incomplete without her. Her “Told you you should not go” the subsequent morning has echoed these 22 years since and can sound on a lower frequency in my mind for the remainder of my life.
It was a corridor-of-fame, traditional, wild, loopy, bananas faculty experience. And so in fact she was in the car with us, the whole approach there and again, despite the fact that 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 consider us all rolling collectively like we did that evening we went after Rachel’s belt. Rolling into the decades ready for us up ahead. Erica won’t ever be in the automotive with us. Not ever once more. However the story, our story, won’t ever be complete without her. She’s going to at all times be riding with us. By some means. Her presence guiding us, correctly, into our unsure future. Her voice will echo in the tales we’ll remember and inform once we reach that future. We’ll conjure her name, our energy prepared her presence back to us. Erica will probably be with us that means.