I saw a man tossed, twisted and trodden on as if he weren’t a serious man, as if he were not the he who had walked proudly through the Puerta to confirm his profession, but a flimsy rag-doll instead. I watched, but 5 metres away, as the bull’s horn eased into his leg without drama. So seamless this easing and so unmoved the crowd I wasn’t sure that it had happened. And I remember that resulting silence, so full of confused excitement, as 25,000 spectators shared a collective pause of anticipation before the bloody clarity.
For my own part I remember feeling something closer to incredulity- that a man could be so close to nothing, made so impotent and weightless by the brilliant thrust of nature. And that the masculinity once so engorged by his career was now shrinking; haemorrhaging into the sand like the blood from his wound.
Then I saw him get up. He gasped and shouted through his own blood. I saw his pride try to salvage the man who had been. I saw that same pride nod affirmatively to the doctor that he was okay. He would carry on because it was what the tradition of his profession required him to do, and it was what the crowd, to satisfy avaricious anticipation, wanted. What the man needed…well it didn’t seem to matter. Eventually however biology won, his body buckling at the knee to the safety of unconsciousness and four sets of concerned arms. He had been convincingly defeated first by the bull and then by his own constitution.
In reaction to this I heard the crowd groan for an instant, collect themselves into interested chatter in the next and then disappear into future; as the torero behind the flapping door of the infirmary disappeared into the past.
20,000 amnesiacs pleaded for the next torero to be better and booed la mala suerte. It was like they were transfixed by a fictional narrative, a narrative that had grown fantastic out of the event’s history and wiped out the brutal reality of La Corrida. The suffering was there, and beauty too, but it was merely the abstraction of the novel or of the painting-the suffering in Guernica or the beauty in a Botticelli. For La Corrida de Toros is understood by the crowd to be an art form and as such the possible death and suffering, of both bull and man, are as allegorical, metaphorical and narrative driven as any artistic medium. In La Plaza the reality of suffering is subsumed by its poetry. Its stark monotone is coloured-in so that, paradoxically, we can live and feel more through it. Here, the fan is handed the DNA of pain, but never its feeling flesh.
And yet 4 metres away I saw the bull, calm. It seemed oblivious to its victory, oblivious to the idea of pain, oblivious to its part in the theatre and oblivious to human reason, really it stood with an innocent stare, just waiting for the noise to stop.