(I write precious little fiction because, well, it’s harder for me than finding a conservative at a San Francisco environmental parade. But to be one with my students who must pen renowned middle school works of fiction on a regular basis, I’ll keep trying. Here’s a simple character sketch. Enjoy.)
Above him the din swells as the songs and chants echo back and forth between the swarms of aficionados joyously baking in the hot sun. Shouts of “ole” and the bawdy, traditional ballads of the people rise from the seats in a rousing crescendo, la gente thirsty for action, for spectacle, for bravado. On and on they chant and cry, eager for the diabolical dance of man and beast. Through the loudspeakers crackles the anthems that meet the lusty, boisterous voice of the sea of people. Energy and Festivity ripple through the crowd, pulsing like Morse code, endlessly rising and falling and rising once again. The pageantry awaits and the patrons can smell the parade about to begin.
Below the masses in the inner recesses of the stadiums paces the lonely matador. Attired in his brightly colored “suit of light” he pauses momentarily in front of the crude, cracked mirror crookedly tacked on the rotting wood in his cell of a dressing room. He brushes a few specks of dirt from his shoulders, pulls on the lapels of his sequined coat to straighten it out and takes in the eyes of a seasoned professional staring back at him in the dimly lit glass. He sees not delight or joy or ambivalence or pain in the darkened pupils in front of him. He sees the semblance of dread and fear. He squints, summoning the courage to oppose the fear, to drive it far from this holding cell, but his show of strength betrays him, falling prey to the eyes of dread that pierce him with the fragility of ice.
He tears himself away from the mirror and peers around the sparsely decorated room. A small bench, a rickety chair and walls as bare as the feelings of anxiety that trickle through his veins. His only companion as he awaits his hour of doom is the neatly folded fabric stretched from end to end with the crimson color of blood. Soon the door shall open and he shall parade forth with the pageantry of a grand marshal, alone into the ring with his only weapon being a cloth cape whose power to hypnotize and entrance he must summon and wield in order to survive to fight yet another day.
Though the muted pulsing of the stadium still sounds above him, alone in his room, loud, heavy silence drapes him in stillness, fraying his nerves and crystallizing his icy emotions. Alone he will emerge from this silence and alone he will stare death in the face. Many others have aspired to walk his steps. Young boys gleam when they see his festive attire dancing around the ring, subjecting the toro to every nuanced move of his body. La mujeres fawn over his show of mastery, the confidence painted on his face, the steel gaze with which he beckons the beast. Yet, for all the screaming and chanting of the masses, he knows he treads alone. The crowd dances not with the face of death; he is the sole lead in this tango, his partner a savage beast.
And from his reverie of solitude he is summoned by the rattling of hinges. Shafts of light crawl from the space below the door up the wall as the sturdy heavy door is opened. He straightens up, becoming straight as a beam. He lifts his chin, pulls back his shoulders and snaps his heels together. He lofts his cape over his arm as the sun spills into the room, beckoning him towards the ever- rising cacophony. He strides forward, draping himself with confidence, somehow dropping the burden of fear to the dusty floor of his cell like shackles, the torturous silence of their crashing to the floor echoing throughout the room. With steeled, burning eyes, he parades into the ring, the lonely matador alone once again in the midst of thousands of people, ready once again to tussle with destiny.