On TV live coverage of a bullfight from Real Maestranza de Sevilla. Ten thousand people are enthralled by the thrusting of the banderillos, the sticking of pikes, the bleeding, the white dripping froth at the bull’s mouth. The TV cameramen provide a succession of extreme close-ups of the young, handsome, fearless matador, whose name I do not catch. Also of the bull, who is nameless. And the anonymous faces in the crowd.
The beautiful girls! Oh, they all share the same look of fascination, of intense adoration. My God, they are sexually aroused at the handsome young man’s display of bravado!
Here live and in color is Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, with details that the Nobel laureate could never have seen, even from his front row seat. And yet somehow he did see it and gave us his comprehensive, meticulous account.
Oh, the senseless barbarity!
But wait. Many of you eat chicken and fish and beef. Steaks that ooze blood. Have you ever seen those trucks that lumber down the highway on their way to the slaughterhouse? As you pass, do you catch a glimpse of those big cow eyes peering from between the shit-stained slats? I once talked to a guy who worked at a meat-packing facility. He insisted that a few smart cows know beforehand exactly what is about to happen. They get big-eyed and terrified as soon as they came off the truck. The rest haven’t a clue.
The bullfight is an uneven match, but there is this, too: It’s really about a human affecting fearlessness. This young man knows he may be gored, he may be killed, but he continues nevertheless.
Surely this is something to emulate. To admire. Or do you rather suggest that we should praise those who tremble and cower and hide and piss their pants in the face of danger? How about when it comes time for us to die? What shall we do, whimper? Weep? Try to run away?
The young matador kneels in the dirt before the wounded, enraged bull. He puts the red cape directly in front of his own body, and invites the bull to charge. The young man is taunting death.
Come on. Charge! I fear nothing!
The young girls swoon.