I peer through a square pane of glass, smudged at the corners with grit. This lends the scene below an antique character — curving, cobbled streets, damp from a passing shower; tall, sun-washed buildings leaning shoulder to shoulder. I realize I am in Pamplona, and an image in sepia tones appears before my mind’s eye, crowding out all else — a photo that has not yet been taken, of a bull being speared. The great creature’s body has been captured as it rears up, front hooves churning air, head and horns twisting leftward. A long, black lance-like spear thrusts from the bull’s right side body.
For a moment, I wonder how the photographer could manage to take the photo without being trampled himself. I speculate as to a structure that might be placed in the street’s center to protect the photographer on three sides when the runners and the bull arrive, and thus divert the tide of violence to pass around while affording an incredible view of the spectacle.
Suddenly, all is noise and chaos. I press my cheek to the glass. Surrounded by waves of people, the very bull I had foreseen in the photo runs past my cropped, squared-off view. Mud rises from the street in clots. Feet and hooves pound. The bull bellows, the men shout. From my vantage, I see a man below and to the right — he pauses at the fringe of commotion. In his hands is a great, black lance decorated lavishly with twists and coils vining from the hand guard down the lance’s length and diminishing upon reaching the weapon’s smooth, elongated tip. The man hefts the lance, draws his arm back in an impossible arc, and hurls the lance forward. It strikes first the cobbled street at an acute angle, sending up glittering sparks, then ricochets up to impale the charging bull squarely beneath its right front shoulder. The bull bellows rage and pain as the lance wags against its side body.
I find myself whisked from my lofty vantage and planted in the middle of the street behind the final wave of berserking humans who are thrilled at the sight of the bull’s shed blood. Within me, I feel a great pressure building from the soles of my feet, rushing upward to fill my lungs, until I am shouting. My voice is huge: “I don’t care if it’s tradition. I HATE it.” I do not feel as though any one has heard me.