A Short Story
I never understood the whole Bullfighting sport until I met Jackie. I was sitting in an outdoor café in Seville by their Plaza de Toros. I had taken a cup of coffee from the Tendida and was reading the news on my IPAD. When I am away from home, I read all the New York papers, it keeps me tethered to my reality. Plus I was scouring the reports on the murder that had taken place a mile or so from where I lived. So far the only suspect they were pursuing, had been beaten unconscious and was in a coma.
One late morning, as I sat beneath an umbrella at a table outside the Plaza de Toros, a woman walked over and asked if she could sit at my table. She spoke a broken spanish and I knew right away she was American, despite her dark complexion and Adulasian dress.
“Yes, of course.” I responded.
She smiled, “Of course I would approach a New Yorker in the middle of Seville.” She smiled.
I laughed, “How did you know I was a New Yorker?”
“I am from Brooklyn, I can sense a New Yorker from a mile away.”
I looked around me and saw my NY Mets logo on my bag. I pointed at it and said, “I guess this helped also?”
She laughed, “Just a tad.”
She was dark skinned and had curls of brown hair which cascaded onto her shoulders. When she smiled her whole face smiled and her brown eyes ignited.
“Let me guess…Yankee fan?”
“Bite your tongue, my family would disown me. Blue and orange all the way through.”
“Wow. Although your answers suit me fine. What are you drinking?”
“It’s a bebida postre, a very sweet drink which I regret getting.”
“Would you prefer a coffee?”
“Yes, would you mind if I left my stuff here while I ran to get-”
“Don’t run, I ain’t going nowhere for a while.”
“Thank you, would you like something…what’s your name?”
“Federico Fettuccine.” I said in a terrible italian accent.
“You are kidding, right? You sound more Italian than Spanish.”
“I know – I don’t really like doing a spanish accent – the lisp is kind of strange.”
She laughed, “I get it. What is your name?”
“My name is David Gold and you are?”
“Funny, not as funny as mine, but it’s good.”
“This is without caffeine and just making it up on the spot.”
I fall in love easily – too easily. But this was ridiculous.
“What do they call you?”
“A lot of rude things here in Spain. But my actual name is Jacklyn Wolf.”
“Two yids meeting in Seville – who would have predicted this?”
“No idea. So Federico, coffee?”
“Yes please, milk one sugar.”
She put her stuff down, smiled at me and then left clutching her purse. What are the chances I would meet a Jewish girl from Brooklyn in Seville? This had to be a setup of some sort it couldn’t be real.
She came back with our coffees and I went to give her the 10 euros but she declined.
“Consider it payment for securing my seat and watching my stuff.”
“OK, well, I’ll get the next round!”
We spoke for the next three hours and of course, two Jews would have common people in our lives. Her brother was married to my best friend’s sister. I had not gone to the wedding because I was stuck in Chicago during a summer thunderstorm; if I had, would I have met her there?
She was in Seville because she had fallen for a bullfighter, yes a bullfighter while she was teaching english at the New School back at home. He was a bullfighter, a model and an aspiring actor. I thought to myself, “Are you fucking kidding me? How could I get close to competing against that? I am an aspiring, yet failing, writer running job to job and I have a belly! I have played stickball pretty well in my life – but bullfighting? The closest I got to that was being chased by my heavy set neighbor after I called her “Gorda” at the prompt of my brother telling me it meant beautiful in spanish. He ran after me for three blocks and then he ran out of steam.
“So you are in love with him?” I asked.
“Oh no it was just lust – I had gotten divorced a little over a year earlier and then took this job teaching and there he was. This spanish god who was six feet tall, good looking and spoke with the softest tone.”
“Yeah that’ll do it.”
“It did it. We went out for a drink one night after class and I ended up waking up in his studio apartment.”
“I was lonely, hurt and I just thirsted for affection.”
“What happened in your marriage?”
“Wow – I’ve known you for two hours and I’m spilling my secrets to you!”
“I’ll have my turn next, but I doubt it’s anything as glamorous as a bullfighter.”
“I got married because I thought that it would be fun. He was a fun guy and we had the best time together. After a couple of years though, he kept having fun even when he was without me.”
“You can say that again.”
“I am not going to say that again. Keep going.”
“One night he came home with a ‘friend.’ She was a blonde haired coworker of his and he wanted to have a threesome.”
“Did he ever discuss it with you?”
“No – hey maybe I would have tried it if we were away on vacation – but to bring someone he knows home without even a conversation? No fucking way.”
“So what did you do?”
“I told him, ‘OK I just want to freshen up a bit first.’ So I went into our room, put my valuables and some clothing in a suitcase. I went to the bathroom and got my stuff, picked up whatever else I had to, pocketbook, phone, charger, laptop and watched as they kissed on my couch. I boiled water. I heard him calling to me to hurry up. Picked up the kettle before it boiled because I needed to get out of there. Threw the water at them, collected my stuff and walked out the door.”
“Were there tell tale signs before that night?”
“Yes, oh yes. He wouldn’t change, couldn’t change – always wanted to be the college boy and not grow up.”
“That must have been painful.”
“I felt minimized and betrayed – but empowered by how I left.”
“What happened after that?”
“He moved out, I moved back in and then I rented a small studio apartment in Greenpoint.”
“When was this?”
“The divorce was finalized a year and a half ago. I finally got the ‘get’, the jewish divorce a year ago. That same night was my first class and where and when I met Felipe.”
They saw each other every day that first month and even slept over each other’s apartments. She knew it wasn’t love and since she was brought up orthodox she also knew it could never be “true love” since she would not marry outside her religion. Plus he was a player and she knew it; so she played along. She followed him to Seville when he made the Matador team he left and flew to Seville. She followed him a week later when classes ended.
“The strangest part of actually flying to Spain just to meet him is that I wasn’t even interested in seeing him again. But I did.”
She watched his first bullfight and felt sick when it was over.
“I didn’t understand why they would continue to hurt the bulls simply as a sport. But then they explained to me that the bulls are able to turn off the pain and distress. I think that is bullshit but whatever. So, the bullfighters are Dr. Kervokians performing an easy death? The bull is stabbed by the picador on a horse on its ‘morrillo,’ a mound of muscle on the fighting bull’s neck. They call him a “Picador” literally meaning a prick. He is on his horse, who is protected by various gear, and the prick, pricks the bull weakening him. The rest is up to the matador to act manly. At the end of the long stupid ‘sport’ they drag the bull out its taken to a slaughterhouse.”
“But why do they still do this shit?” I asked her.
“It’s what the government calls a ‘cultural heritage’ that must be protected and continued. In the end I would think it’s all about money. After that first bullfight, Felipe told me he was going to a restaurant to go eat the bulls tail. It’s called, ‘rabo de toro de lidia’ which means a stew made of the tails of fighting bulls.”
“Ugh. Sounds kind of gross, no?”
“Yes plus it’s not kosher! Felipe knew I would not eat it but he thought that I was entranced by the bullfight rather than disgusted.I told him I wasn’t interested and basically broke up our relationship that night. I am staying at a bed and breakfast now.”
“When was this?”
“Two weeks ago. I have been having the best time since then. I went to Madrid, I took this train that got me there in two and a half hours. There were a couple of places for me to eat kosher meat there. They were pretty good. Otherwise, I ate gazpacho, paella and this thing called, ‘leche frita’ fried milk. Crazy delicious – I think I gained 100 pounds!”
“You need to take me to some good places – I’ve been here for 2 nights and have eaten breakfasts and some lunch. I haven’t eaten an actual meal for dinner.”
“Tell me your story.”
“You don’t want to know it, it’s boring.”
“Everyone’s own story is either boring or self inflated journalism. Are you in a rush to go anywhere?”
“No, it’s just the same old story, kind of like a Bruce Springsteen song. I had a job, I lost it. I had a girl, she left me. I got in trouble after getting too drunk one night in a bar and almost was arrested.”
“What happened in the bar?”
“Let’s start from the beginning.”