Bull’s Eye

Sebastián Rincón

Ana Luisa Sierra


I laughed contentedly at a crude remark from Bill, as I ordered yet another cold glass of beer from one of ambulant vendors in the arena. The afternoon Valencian sun was relentless, and I could feel cold sweat forming on my face. I didn’t mind. This was the first time we traveled out of the country in years, and we were enjoying the iconic cultural festivity, perhaps not so much for the cultural aspect, but for the exhilarating and primal entertainment that can rarely be found outside television these days. Starting to feel light-headed from all the drinks, but with no intention of slowing down, we watched as the renowned bullfighter Enrique Ponce was introduced to the crowd. I was thrilled that the environment in the arena was every bit as exciting as I had hoped, while the music started playing and the crowd roared in anticipation. Soon after, the gates were opened and the bull rushed into the scene.

It was a mighty creature, I thought, admiring its sheer size, powerful horns, and finely toned muscle that could be appreciated even from where we were standing. It turned its head back and forth, rattling the sign that displayed its name, weight, and place of origin. For half a second, I felt a small pang of pity at the back of my mind, to see such a fine creature labeled like supermarket product, but it was gone as quickly as it started. We were witnessing the first stage of the show, Tercio de varas, in which the bull runs around, and is tested on its strength and behavior by the matador and the banderilleros with the pink and gold capes.

I had never seen a bullfight before, but took it upon myself the previous day to become familiar with the proceedings, in order to fully enjoy the experience. Thus, I was able to recognize the picador, who entered the arena on horseback, and drew first blood with a delicate, calculated thrust of his slim lance. The crowd cheered louder, myself included, when my head started throbbing. It was almost imperceptible at first, but soon my heart rate accelerated and the incessant sting in my head made it impossible to keep my eyes open. I winced and covered my face with my hands, faintly wondering whether the drinks or the heat had affected me. My own pulsations became audible, my mouth felt dry, and I groaned as my head seemed to boil and ring with the sound of thunder and hundreds of bells.

I opened my eyes, disoriented. My vision was blurry, but as I looked around my eyes locked into three slightly overweight, balding American men staring delightedly to where I was standing. I was seeing myself with my two friends. Before I had time to think or process my shock, I felt a sharp stab on my back. I screamed, but nothing came out except a strange guttural sound. It was the second stage of the bullfight, the Tercio de Banderillas, and I could feel my legs start to buckle under my own weight as one of the banderillas pierced my flesh. The men in horses left as quickly as they arrived. Outraged and in pain, with no means to escape, I charged towards the only bright image that stood out in the otherwise oppressive environment. Missing my mark, I heard the crowd chant OLE! Feeling trapped and with my fear and rage mounting, I tried again and again. I had no idea if minutes or hours elapsed. Suddenly, silence filled the arena. Weary and in pain, I held my feet together and head down, as I felt my chest implode with one final stab from the matador’s sword. As the world turned cold and black, I heard cheers.

From the seats, I opened my eyes, blinking several times. The people were delighted, holding out white handkerchiefs to demonstrate their approval of the matador’s performance. He bowed and saluted, as Tercio de Muerte was concluded, and someone else stepped in to cut the bull’s throat. “Where’s your handkerchief, Henry?” Bill asked. “Didn’t you… by God, you look pale!” he exclaimed. “Don’t tell me the sight of blood got you dizzy.” He teased and chuckled.


I shook my head, and tried to take a sip of my beer, but my throat was clamped and I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. The sun was setting as Ponce paraded around the arena, holding out the bull’s ears in his hands.

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