The afternoon was hot and promised to get hotter. We bought Coronas on the Boulevard Leones, cold and beaded with sweat, which brought hurried relief as we took Simon Bolivar to Madero where we were going to have roast pork and wait for Oscar's compadre - who eventually and miraculously called and said he would arrive late. We took the meat with lager and went up-town to shoot pool. Enrique was supposed to meet us in a bar on Pino Suarez, so we had two hours of constantly missing easy shots in the nervous heat as the day waxed hotter still.
There is something about waiting for a bullfight, those last difficult hours of the early afternoon. There is something about the patience required: that just-right, that so-so, that perfect combination of skill and luck and death that so rarely occurs and is so beautifully difficult to bear witness-to and abide.
I had been to four bad fights straight. Three of them with Oscar and his friend Enrique and the other in solitary disgust in Cadereyta. But as with fishermen, farmers and gamblers of all genre the future is always promising, good fortune is just around the corner. We shot three games, went downstairs to a small stand-up bar on the first floor, took a brandy neat and walked-up the street to a cantina to meet Enrique. More waiting. Waiting in the heat. Waiting for the fight. Waiting on Enrique. I took another brandy as Oscar's friend finally arrived.
The drive to Santiago passed rapidly as I rode in the back seat of Enrique's car somnambulant by the anxiety of the up-coming event and the effects of the heat and the brandy. The remainder of the afternoon was pure Latin politics - unfulfilled promises, expensive beer, and slow unwarranted death.
The first bull was lame in his right front leg, would not charge in a straight-line and was therefore very dangerous. He was killed quickly - after seven attempts.
The second bull had been blinded in one eye by an accident in the corrals and would not take the cape but was dispatched the quickest and the cleanest I had witnessed in seven consecutive temporadas of Mexican fiesta brava. It was a clean death, a quick death, a silent death, an all-encompassing death, a timeless flash of white-hot nothingness that sprang-out, upon and into the soul of the beast before he could collapse in the gravely-sand, bathing his killer in one last spasmodic release of brute force and blood, that last gasp of all that is life and all that is life, lived to its fullest - he was dead before he hit the ground.
The third bull was punished excessively by the picador and tired quickly with the subsequent loss of blood. Again, his torero could not kill cleanly and the screams of the animal left the plaza subdued in disgust, ripe with drunken anger at such a poor showing by their native son.
The fourth and last bull of the afternoon was lost in rampage somewhere in the small town adjacent to the bullring. He had escaped during the unloading of the trucks just prior to the fight. When the sudden and unexpected end of the spectacle was announced after the carcass of the third bull had been dragged out of the arena by a team of mules and their muleteers, the public scorned and cursed the judge of the plaza, all his immediate family, the bulls, the expensive beer, the unfulfilled promises, the slow unwarranted death and the afternoon in general.
During the ensuing chaos that followed, we hurried to leave the plaza aware, very much aware, that only encountering a lost, frightened and enraged fighting bull running amuck midst the winding cobble stoned streets and alleys of the village could make the afternoon any bleaker. However, thoughts of them and theirs, thoughts of the organizers and owners and powers-that-be who had engendered such a debacle, thoughts of them trying to subdue the most irate of beasts in the enswathing darkness of a small, rural village on a Mexican Sunday afternoon greeted the cooling breezes of the early evening with smiles of poetic justice and Coronas-all-round as we fled to the refuge of Monterrey.