During the bullfight, the matador faces off against 1,000 pounds of seriously pissed-off beef. He is confronting disembowelment, dismemberment, and death – on the hoof. So what does he do? He challenges it! He yells at the bull, stomps his feet, flourishes his cape and draws the deadly charge. The bull’s horns pass within scant inches of his ever-so-tightly-packed pants (taleguilla) and the pass concludes with a dramatic flourish! Momentarily confused, the bull spins seeking his opponent again. What does the matador do? With a disdainful sneer, he turns his back on the raging beast with nary a backward glance, strides boldly away from the bull and demands the approbation of the crowd!
Now you know it has to take nerves of steel to turn your back on that monster meat train. It’s a dare. Go ahead and charge. I know you will not do it, his posture states. I have what you want – his chin juts. I am what you want! And the crowd inevitably goes wild…
It is a dramatic moment of raw, unadulterated ego. However, it’s also a pause in the dance of death, a conscious moment where the matador controls the attention, not only of his opponent, but the crowd as well. The sprint is ended and the matador has performed well. He looks to his stakeholders – the audience, to check and see if they approve or if they are screaming for his head, or worse yet, bored. It’s a pause to catch his breath before the next deadly sprint begins. It’s a brief moment to plan his next moves; an instant in which to bolster his own courage for the next sprint.
He curls his lip, as if to say, “That was nothing! Watch this!” and turns to face the bull. They continue their dance, each pirouette, each encounter more daring than the last – equal parts sweat and blood. Each is fully committed. We are pretty sure we know how this will end. Mostly sure – more or less. You never really know. Otherwise, none of the spectators would show up.
Again, the pause, another deadly iteration is done and both combatants are still standing. Again, our brazen matador turns his back on the horned demon and walks away raising his chin to the crowd, “Wasn’t I magnificent? Yes!” Again, the bull, for reasons I simply can’t fathom, doesn’t take the golden opportunity to eviscerate this silly bastard while his back is turned. Again, the crowd indicates their acceptance of the last iteration. Time to move on. The matador looks at the crowd one last time and his expression says, “You could not do this. Only I can do this.”
And so the final iteration of the release begins. Sitting in the crowd I ask myself, did he know it would take this long when he started? Probably not. Each bull is different. Each bull has its own temperament, its own stamina, its own beady-eyed intelligence. The forms are the same, the structure of each pass, each iteration is the same. But the matador doesn’t know how long it will take. Oh, he has a plan no doubt. But his plans are no better than yours or mine. All he can do is take his passes and check, take another set of passes and check. And make each one more beautiful than the last. And the goal, after each pass, and in the finality of the entire encounter, is to simply walk away.