The sun sets in a beautiful hue of golds and pinks along a quite street in Pamplona, Spain. I stare at the beginnings of twilight, lost in thought to how disappointing this trip has been so far. My husband, Francois, had invited me on his company trip to Spain. He had to go to the annual meet and greets to schmooze some colleagues and make sure his name was still remembered among the board members. When he invited me onto this trip, I had a grandiose vision of us strolling through Pamplona, listening to street musicians strum their guitars. We would explore new historical places, dine on food not found in our own country, and have romantic evenings that would end in sweet kisses. However, I'm now wishing I had stayed in France.
He has ignored me this entire time, in favor of brown nosing the new VP of Marketing. It wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't a woman. Celina Rubio was a tall beautiful woman. With silky black hair, deep sepia eyes, and a fit figure; she had many men turning their gaze. Francois was no exception, and he was now treating her like a new girlfriend. "It's all for the sake of us. If I get in good with her, then we are set for life Angelique." , he cries. Trying to justify why he takes her out to dinner, to music gatherings, to the University of Navarra museum. I've thought about making a scene and calling him out on his blatant cheating, but that wouldn't do me any good. I can already hear the things they would say.
'Oh here comes the crazy wife.'
"Why did Francois bring the harpy on the trip.'
'Someone had better call security.'
I can only wait until we're back in France to really do anything. Maybe I'll go stay with my papa. He never really liked Francois, kept giving him the evil eye at Christmas parties. I smile to myself, taking another sip of the red wine I had ordered from room service.
I see down below me, a few street lamps start to come on. It really is a wonderful night to be out on the terrace. The breeze is gently blowing, cooling the night from the hot summer day. No soul was out right now. They are probably getting ready for bed or enjoying a nightcap with a loved one. I'm thinking of going in and starting a relaxing bath when I see something out of the corner of my eye.
It's a man, he's dressed as a mozo for San Fermin. He seems to be strolling jauntily down the way. I stare in confusion because the Festival of San Fermin is still a month away. Maybe he was too excited and couldn't wait to wear the traditional garb for running with the bulls?
I lean further over the railing trying to get a good look at him, wondering where he is headed. Suddenly, he looks up and our eyes meet. He is devilishly handsome. Soft curls frame his face, his eyes sparkle with mirth, and his broad shoulders are definitely something to appreciate. The mozo clings to him showing a strong figure that could take a bull head on (or, as my mind whispers, carry a woman away). He smiles at me, teeth gleaming, and drops into a flourished bow. My heart does flutter for a moment. After all, an attractive man bowing to a lady, my 18th century fantasies come alive again. I decided to smile back and give a small wave.
A loud noise disturbs our little bubble. I look to my left and back towards the street climbing the hill. The street light flickers for a moment and I'm wondering what on earth made that bellowing noise. As the light steadies itself, I'm horrified to see that it's a Bull standing atop the hill. It's wide muscles were bulging, it's tail swishing in agitation and he lets loose another bellow as he sights the man down in the street. The bull charges, his intent clear in his stride, the man would be no more.
I leapt to my feet and cry a warning to the stranger. Hoping he could run into a near by building to avoid being trampled or worse, skewered. He smiles and waves to me, turning to face the bull. I watched in terror as they drew closer and closer until the bull was atop the man, waiting to witness a gruesome attack. Then, to my utter amazement, the man spins to the right of the bull, who then flies right past him.
A bubble of relief wells inside me as I laugh at the close call the stranger has had with death. Until another enraged bellow fills the night. The bull charges again and the man takes the red ascot from his neck and taunts the bull even further.
How can this man stare a raging beast of death in the face and make fun of him even further? Was he mad? Yet, he seemed to be having fun as he leapt to the side of the bull again. I continued to watch this dance of back and forth. his laughter sprinkling into the night.
This impressive man was very brave and with his footwork, may have been a professional dancer. Every time, he evaded the bull, he would send a dazzling smile of joy my way. It's over, I'm done, this man has captured my interest. What would my mother say if she saw me ogling another man? Yet, I don't think I would care as I watched him dodge the bull by jumping onto a trash bin and almost falling off.
A loud chime sounds out and I see from in my hotel room it's almost midnight already. I had been watching the miniature matador match in the street for quite awhile now. The bull, bellows a mournful sound note this time. I turn my head to see if anyone has been injured, but no, the bull slows his run and shakes his head as if disappointed.
I look to the mozo and see a sad smile on his face as he stares at the bull. The bull trudges up to the stranger and shakes his head again. A hand gently lands on the bulls head and strokes him between his horns. He leans down and whispers something to the bull. I'm shocked to see the bull seems to be pouting as he walks back up the hill he had first appeared on.
The beautiful man watches the bull make his way home before he walks to a streetlamp across the street from me. He plucks a flower from the hanging basket under the lamp and, to my surprise, takes a running leap towards the hotel. He grabs ahold of the edge of my terrace and manages to haul himself up onto the ledge I had been leaning against. Thank goodness I was only on the second floor.
His gaze was beautiful, as he twirled the flower between his fingers. "Buenas noches hermosa.", he huskily whispered. "Hello.", I managed to squeak out. I cleared my throat, embarrassed. "That was really brave, the way you faced the bull. I've never seen anything like that before."
"Ah, Renaldo is an old softy. He just needs to have some excitement every once in awhile."
"Renaldo?", I questioned. "Si, Renaldo the Bull. He was very formidable back in his youth. We like to have a small running of the bull every once in while to make sure we are still in shape." I stare in shock. I feel like I should be used to these surprises, with the show I've just witnessed and everything. "You and Renaldo do this regularly? Wouldn't the city or the people have a problem with it?"
The deep laughter that followed made me blush even more. "No, Renaldo and I can only do this when certain things are in our favor. No one who sees us really cares. they get a sense of wonder when we perform." I shyly tuck my hair behind my ear, as he smiles at me. "Here for you. A beautiful flower for a beautiful woman." I took the bright red carnation from his outstretched hand, a soft calm overcoming me.
I looked up just in time to watch him leap from the terrace. I rushed to see that he was okay. He waved farewell as he walked the same way the bull went. "I'm sorry hermosa, It's time for me to go now. Dulces sueños." He took off at a run, as if he didn't he wouldn't make it to where he wanted to go. I looked down to the flower and a happy sigh escaped into the night.
I went to bed soon after thinking of the mystery man and his wonderous smile.
A few days have passed since that wonderous nighttime spectacular. I tried to mention it to Francois but he looked at me funny and said I had drunk to much wine. Admittedly , half the bottle of wine was gone, but I'm not so much of a lush as to guzzle it down in one sitting. I had asked about it to the concierge downstairs but he looked confused and stated that San Fermin was still a month away. When I tried to explain myself further, François had dragged me away saying not to waste the man's time about my crazy dreams.
Was I going crazy? I was so sure that the man and the bull were real. How would I know what a bull sounds like? I kept wondering if I was sick or something. However, I know I'm not crazy. The red carnation is still next to my bed side table where I had placed it that first night. I wanted to find out what was going on, but I didn't need people thinking I was truly mad.
It wasn't until the last day of the trip, when I was looking for souvenirs for my friends, that I finally found some answers. In downtown Pamplona, I was surprised to find a statue of the mystery man and the bull! It managed to capture a certain playfulness between the two and made me smile. I looked eagerly for a plaque with information on it but it was only in Spanish. I cursed my younger self for learning German instead of Spanish in college.
I must have looked quite a site circling the statue, because an old woman had stopped to ask me what I was doing. I sheepishly looked at her and explained, "I'm trying to find some information on the statue but I don't understand Spanish well enough. I'm sorry if I disturbed you ma'am." She looked at me in understanding. "Well, if you must know Srta., that is the graceful mozo named Sebastian and his bull Renaldo."
"Sebastian?", I wondered, looking up at the bronzed man. "Si, Sebastian was a kind hearted man that loved to run the San Fermin. He was one of the best. He could dodge them so gracefully, as if he was dancing with them. Renaldo was a young bull that had been released a number of years for the festival. I believe the record was 6 years. Unfortunately, a miscreant decided it would be funny to throw a firecracker right at Renaldo as he was turning a blind corner. The poor thing got so spooked he ended up inuring himself along with a few of the other mozos.
Renaldo's owner was going to have him put down since he was so old, even though he would have recovered eventually. Sebastian upon hearing this, immediately put a stop to it. He offered Renaldo's owner 2x what Renaldo was worth and took him to live outside the city on some land he owned. When asked why he did he do it. he said, 'Why wouldn't I? Everyone deserves a peaceful life. If he can no longer run then he can stay with me. Together we will have our own San Fermin! What fun!' We as a people, were so moved by their story, the city decided to build a statue in their honor. They were truly happy until the end of their days. We mourned on each day of their passing."
I turned my head away from the two friends. "Were? They are no longer here?", I was hoping she wouldn't confirm my fears. "No, they passed a long time ago. Renaldo lived another two years before succumbing to an issue with his heart. Sebastian was still young, Only 45 at the time. He managed to live another 22 years before he passed in 1979. His young wife, Sophia had passed earlier that year from cancer. He couldn't live without her and followed a few months later. His children threw a lovely funeral for them."
My heart broke a little. the man that had made me laugh, who gave me a lovely red carnation, who I had developed feelings for, had married and passed before I was born. The budding dream of finding Sebastian and seeing if we were right for each other, died right there and then. "I hope his life was full of love then.", I whispered, trying not to cry.
"Oh, it definitely was. He had a loving wife, many children, a few grandchildren and he always loved to talk about his 'Epic Adventures with Renaldo the Bull'. He left this world feeling very loved." A handsome man appeared from behind the statue, deciding to join our conversation. "He has become apart of a local legend to this area."
"Oh Estevan, don't go telling ghost stories again. Trying to frighten the tourists. It's not very gentlemanly of you. What would your grandfather say?", chastised the old woman.
A familiar sounding laugh burst forth from this caramel colored charmer. "I'm sure grandfather Sebastian would be laughing as well Ms. Sanchez, while grandmother Sophia would roll her eyes."
My confusion began to clear, "Grandfather Sebastian? Are you....?" "The famous Sebastian's grandson? Absolutely. I'm sorry for interrupting your day but I do love talking about grandfather. I am Estevan Perez, Lovely to meet you.", he smiled and gave a flourished bow.
I felt a familiar heat cover my cheeks as I smiled, "Yeah, lovely to meet you too, Estevan." My heart gave another little flutter as he lent down to kiss my hand.