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Papel Picado, Ecstasy, and other stuff by Scott Seay
 

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  • Ariel called me for breakfast on a Sunday morning at 5 a.m., asking me to meet her and two friends at Mi Tierra. They had been out all night and were winding things down over eggs, coffee, fried ice cream, and what was described to me as possibly the worst pork chop ever made. I put on pants and drove through downtown to the restaurant, while I also tried to balance the contrary ideas of why I was going to met a woman I had known less than a week, and what I was afraid of.
    Ariel and her friends were in a small booth in the middle of place, surrounded by no one and empty tables. 5 a.m. sunday morning was not a popular time. I was quickly introduced to Clarissa and Doug, who were dressed in the tumbled and mostly black uniforms of artist-party people everywhere, and the pork chop, which lay on the plate looking like it had spent the past few days bronzing itself under a desert sun, or a heat lamp in the kitchen. "About time you got here. She made me move so you could sit by her." Clarissa laughed this out between picking at her coffee and eggs with the same lack of interest. After a few questions, I got a narrative from her and Doug of the time from about 10 p.m. Saturday to the present; it involved two art openings, one club, an after party, then a second after party, then a studio where something had happened Clarissa was not quite sure about, and then a trip to the restaurant where I had met up with them.
    During these moments, the fried ice cream in a bunuelo bowl was occupying Ariel's attention. When I looked over, she pointed a spoon. "It has bacon on it. I got a side of that and crushed it on. Texture, you know." She said this between bites. "I mean, who doesn't like bacon?" Her shirt, a bright purple and pink combo, seemed to lift her voice toward me and provide an accent for all of this, and her skirt was moving up as she crossed her legs toward me on our side of the booth. "Have some. This spoon is for you." The quiet of eating, lack of sleep, and phones and texting drifted across all of us for a few minutes. Doug took pictures of everything and Clarissa continued to laugh at the pork chop, while Ariel and I shared a few comments.
    "I love the way this place looks." She said after a while. "Look at all the shiny. I want my life to be like that." She pointed to the foil, silver papel picado that hung from every available space of the ceiling. White Christmas lights strung up permanently reflected across them from every small shudder the wind gave. "It's like ecstasy." She laughed.
    Between the silver foil and lights, I wasn't able to see any one of these handcut, folk art pieces hanging down to make out what shapes or designs they might hold. "It is very busy. Well, tacky X, maybe?"
    She turned to me. "These days, what other kind is there." She paused and looked down at her chest. "This shirt catches the same tacky light." She leaned into me and shook for effect. I noticed that her purple pink shirt was covered in small sequins that reflected back circles of light across the table and booth we were sitting in, and even the floor beyond. Purple rings of light danced around us.
    "Bathroom. Then I gotta get home." Clarissa's voice brought us back. "Look... he's even falling asleep." She pointed at Doug whose face was covered by the ballcap brim that drooped tablewards at an angle of something less than full consciousness. "...'Riel, you come with me." As I stood up, Ariel struggled to get out of the booth to go with Clarissa as a Lone Star she had picked up somewhere rolled out of her purse into the space between the cushions.
    Minutes later, after paying, getting a few pastries, looking for Selena pictures that were no longer part of the restaurant's shrine to the Virgin Mary, and finding that we had parked right next to each other, we were saying good-bys. Ariel had made it clear somehow that she was going home with me, and as the sun rose through downtown we both joked about how she took the ice cream to go when you really aren't supposed to take ice cream to go because it will only melt, or that her shirt sequins were catching light from the few streetlamps still on.
    At my house, we shared coffee, the pastries and ice cream that had still made it, and talked about her friends, San Antonio, and the habits and sexualities of the last few people we had been with. When I commented that people seemed very comfortable in my house because of its feeling and energy, Ariel suggested that maybe that was me. The lights she made danced around my bedroom as she took off her shirt, and later when she put it back on. Its been a few weeks since then, and I've swept my small house several times, but I keep finding purple light sequins on my floor, dots of reminders of that small morning.
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