As I entered the stands, the silence emanating from the arena was palpable. The dull, distant thud of hooves on sand came and went, but for the most part it was silent. Taking a seat, I allowed myself to look at the action. A bull was already in the final stages of dying, its limp body trying to fight back one last time. It was determined. But even the low groans that came from its bleeding mouth didn’t stop the matador. He was determined, too. The battle would end one way or another with a lifeless body being dragged across the hard sand, blood trailing behind it.
The matador danced around the arena lapping up the admiration of the audience, his red cape billowing out around him adding to his charm. Still the bull persevered. Sticky, red blood poured from a gaping hole in its neck and its tongue hung loose, panting hard to catch the breath of life. Still it fought against the depths of death. Surrender was not an option; not yet anyway.
So the dance continued. Back and forth, back and forth went the matador’s cape, tempting the bull to run harder and closer with every wave. Above the action, the harsh Spanish sun bleached the stadium a garish yellow, which only served to separate the red of blood and cape into entities of their own. The heat was unbearable and shade was not an option. As I squinted against the rays, I imagined I was watching a film. I imaged I was no longer in the oversized stadium that was documenting the fragility of life. I was no longer staring across at the audience who seemed to get wilder with every inch of blood that spilled from the magnificent animal. The film played out in front of me, but I was not there. I was with the bull, willing it to hold on; willing it to prove me wrong about the fragility of life.
The cape fell from the matador’s hands and, with fingers tightly gripping his spear, he brought it down into the already wounded withers of the bull. Shaking frantically from side to side, the bull tried to dislodge the unwelcome weapon, but it stayed upright, marking the matador’s victory. The crowd went wild and then disappeared from my senses as I honed in on the bull. I didn’t notice the other matadors enter the arena. I didn’t notice as they circled the bull which had shakily fallen to its knees. It let out a pathetic, beaten groan, and I imagined it looking straight into the matador’s eyes, pleading with him to end the pain. The fight had left it. It had surrendered.
As if in answer to its begging, the matador once again raised his spear above his head. With it poised ready to kill, he looked up at the audience. He had time to spare. The bull was going nowhere. As the metal met flesh, I imagined I heard the bull sigh. Sighing as its last breath left its knackered body; sighing because it was finally over.
Without waiting, a horse drawn carriage flew into the arena, ready to carry away the useless carcass. I couldn’t watch anymore. Standing up, I locked my eyes on the body being dragged humiliatingly across the sand, a trail of blood arching behind it. I looked at the body that, moments before, had fought for its life right in front of me; the body that would now never have the chance to fight for its life again.
As the second, very much alive, animal careered into the arena to play out its doomed fate, I subtly nodded at the first bull’s limp body. He was already forgotten by the jeering crowd, but would remain with me for the rest of my life.