Zoom In: “Do you think you’ll die next Easter?”
Such was the slogan used by the Spanish General Direction of Traffic in the Easter 2006 campaign. Probably, none of the 108 people who died on the Spanish roads that Easter thought they would. None of us in fact think much about our own death as something imminent, unless we are fighting a terminal illness or grow very old. However, some Spaniards do. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny Spring Sunday in Seville. It was the last Sunday of the Feria de Abril and the streets of Seville were seething with adorned carriages, men and women in folk costumes and hundreds of tourists. They were drinking, eating, dancing, laughing and having a wonderful time in general. But in the Real Maestranza de Sevilla, everybody is silently holding their breaths.
A young man is kneeling in the arena, very still, his eyes fixed on his imminent death. It is hell hot under his shining traje de luces and black montera. He is sweating and very scared, but he does not move an inch to escape. Time stops when he cross-signs twice; a piece of red cloth as all his protection. Thousands of eyes are fixed on him and the rows are so silent you can hear his breath. Then, there the sound of metal and the Chiqueros opens.
His mother, his wife, and the children he might never have are praying for him somewhere because he might die this afternoon. Is he thinking of them at this moment? Is he thinking of last afternoon at home, of last summer by the seaside, of the last time he had sex or ate his favourite food? Is he thinking of his last or first kiss? Is he thinking he might not be able to remember all those moments again?
Death enters the ring costumed as a thousand-pound, blood-thirsty, black monster. It spots him and decides he is its next target. Only twenty feet separate them. He raises his eyes to look at the bull’s own, several feet above his. As the huge bull runs to him with blood-injected eyes, people keep holding their breath and still he does not move a muscle. But his muscles are tense like a bow. It is only a couple of seconds, but he lives them in slow motion, and those seconds are, in fact, ages. Those two seconds that could be his last.
His only weapons are a piece of cloth, his youth, and a cold head. Will it keep cold as it approaches? Will his young muscles respond when he needs them? As the bull approaches, he feels the vertigo of falling down a skyscraper. There comes the moment when only two feet separate them, and both of them can smell each other’s sweat and fear as the tip of its horns approach his breast. Their luck is already settled, but neither of them knows it.
A sudden move of the cloth captures the bull’s attention at the last moment. The cloth is flying up and about to escape; it cannot, must not, escape. The bull reacts and changes its direction. It follows the cloth and misses the shining figure who operates its simple mechanism. All the time he has been kneeling on the sand. People must have been screaming since both approached, but he could not hear them. What is the speed of his mind and the speed of his muscles? The bull turns amazed at having missed his easy target, but the bullfighter is already on his feet, and asking it for a dance.
Zoom In II: “That Huge Butterfly.”
It is on a narrow and dark street with no end, and everything is colored on a grey scale.
It feels uncomfortable because it cannot move either way and it is used to vast spaces.
It feels strong and powerful, but there is nothing to be done to escape: nobody to hurt, nobody to blame.
This situation is completely new to it and it does not know what to do, or what to expect. If only it could see somebody, if only it could find somebody to blame for what they are doing to it; at his moment, it is so angry! It was sure it could fight them and win its freedom back. Finding no other target, he attacks the walls with its horns where others had hit before. Suddenly, there is light at the end of the corridor and the bite of some insect on its back pushes it out.
And there it goes. It feels so good to be able to run again; it can feel the ground complain at its weight under its feet. It feels strong and powerful. Let’s see what’s out; it is ready to kill anything that moves. A considerably big animal is waiting for it very close. It is still and calm; probably eating something; and it has not seen its approach. It knows this because the animal does not move when it should be escaping.
Perhaps it is blind and deaf; so much better if it is. Plus, it cannot be fast: its legs are too short. That animal must be guilty of what has happened to it these days; of its being deprived of its freedom. For God’s sake; it doesn’t even have horns! There is no risk in attacking it! It is very close to its target now and cannot miss it. Whatever it is, it is going to die very soon. Its powerful horns approach the animal and there are only two inches to be crossed between them. It is impossible that it misses its target: no animal is that fast. Its horns are already warm with the idea of its blood being spilt on them. But suddenly, the animal moves and tries to escape. The animal jumps up, clumsily fluttering. It must be a hurt bird or something. The animal escaped it this time, but it did not go very far. Indeed, this animal is only one inch from its horns, and the bull attacks it again with a burst of sand coming out of its hooves where they hit the arena. The bull is sweat-shining black muscles smelling a rose flown by the wind, running after a huge butterfly that always escapes by much less than a second, blind to the gold-glittering child who flies the kite.
Zoom In III: The Dance
And they dance. They dance for life and for death at the same time; desiring both at the same time and with the same will. At each pass, it is not each other, but Death who passes by them. Do you think you’ll die next second? Between two fierce enemies, a strong bond is born during their fight as they look at each other’s eyes and smell each other’s fear. The bond is knit with mutual admiration, mutual understanding, and mutual respect. Both want to live, but both their lives are incompatible with the situation. Is there really any need for this encounter? The public keep on holding their breath. At this moment, it is not only necessary, but unavoidable. If only one of them would runaway! If only one of them gave up the fight, both lives could be spared! But they don’t. They go on dancing to the tune of some silent music. One dance with you, my love, is worth my life.