The blindfolded horse leans into the bull, unsteady but protected from the horns by the heavily padded armour that extends to its knees. As he strains to try to lift the horse, black muscles tensed, the bull is gored in the shoulder with a lance by the mounted picador.
El Toro disengages. The cape-waving cuadrilla draws him away as three banderilleros on foot enter the ring. Each is holding a pair of short, barbed spears tightly adorned with coloured ribbons. The first stands tall on his toes with arms outstretched in a T, posing like a mantis with spears pointing down to receive the bull. El Toro sights him, backs up, paws the ground and charges. With an arched leap the banderillero dodges his swinging horns and thrusts the spears into his withers.
• • •
Through the town, dodging the thronging people. Past the great white curving rampart of the plaza de toros and the tiny arrow slit of a ticket window—closed. Past the contiguous walls of white painted homes boot-topped with bands of saffron or salmon. Past windows caged behind delicate skeletons of the same wrought black iron that encases parapet-like balconies above.
And past a little restaurant with a man sitting sidelong inside a street-facing reception window, with a tiny handbill stuck on the glass that halts me. It's an advertisement for tickets to the three weekend corridas—including the Goyesca.
I point to it. “Esta la Corrida de la Goyesca disponible? Is the bullfight available?”
“Sí. €100 por sol alto.”
I'm stunned. A ticket! Right in front of me!
Sol alto are the cheapest seats. They're in the upper tier, furthest from the ring. Sol—in the hot sun. No shade. And while they're not €2,000, even in this second year of the Spanish recession they're still no bargain. I hesitate, thumbing my euros, gauging all that I have spent to get here. Should I just commit to finishing it? Finding a ticket at all is unbelievable luck. And after everything, haven't I earned this privilege? Isn't this my prize?
“Pues?” asks the man. Do I want it or not?
So here I am, despite all expectations, squinting through the dust-speckled light of the hot afternoon sun. There's a spicy smell of cigarillos in the air. I'm sitting on a bench in the highest seats, on a little square cushion rented for two euros, with a spirited crowd. I have prevailed. It's 38 degrees and the Goyesca, on its sixth bull, is into its third hour.