Monday, September 05, 2016

Lost in Spain: episode 6

EPISODE 6: The act of death

The star of the Goyesca this year is the devilishly handsome Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez, grandson of Antonio Ordóñez, matador, Armani model, and sensation in Spain. His “suit of lights” has been designed by Giorgio Armani himself, just as his grandfather's was designed by Picasso for the maiden Goyesca half a century ago.

It is the tercio de muerte, the third and final act of the bullfight, when the supporting team of toreros departs the arena, leaving the matador alone with the bull. The brass band brays a stirring pasodoble as the suave Cayetano in embroidered grey satin strolls into the ring.

The wounded bull watches him cautiously as he approaches. Cayetano gauges the distance between them, stops, and studies the beast. There is fight in it still; he must tire it. The two face each other across the ring, steady as they assess one another.

Suddenly, Cayetano commits and rushes forward. El Toro immediately responds and in the centre they meet, al encuentro. The bull scoops up his horns in a powerful leap, his forelegs lifting off the ground, but the fearsome prongs meet only air behind the matador's red muleta. He turns and charges again, but the matador steers him clear. Once more the bull tries, and Cayetano guides the animal with a left-handed pass, finishing the tanda with a swirling molinete. The crowd cheers: “Olé!”

From one tanda through another, Cayetano weaves the bull in a series of passes through the crimson cloak, spending the animal as he rushes, launches, pitches and skids. He conducts the bull with a sanguine flicker and embraces his flank as they pirouette.

The matador strides around the ring to manoeuvre the bull. With his back now to my direction he throws his hand above his head and stands before the animal in a defiant desplante, daring him to gore. The grey satin is stained scarlet from shoulder to hand.

El Toro is reduced by all the blood-letting and his neck muscles are weak from trying to toss the horse. Now parado—stopped—the bull is reserving what strength he has left. As he faces me, his tongue out and panting, I have a direct line into the animal's eyes. There's something missing. The predatory gaze. He doesn't have it. He isn't a killer; he is fighting just to stop his torment. He wants to be left alone.

Cayetano produces his sword and lays it on the head of the exhausted animal as if to command him. Flitting the cape, he positions the bull with another pass until they face each other a few paces apart. The toreador, now fixed, raises his sword with his bloodied arm to head height and sights it along the blade. He lowers his red muleta and the bull lowers his horns. For a moment they are motionless. Then the matador lunges. The bull storms, throwing his head up as the bullfighter leaps into range.

They clash.

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