I walked into the middle of some parade. There were a lot of young, shirtless men. I thought it was the pride march, and I belonged. Onlookers pelted us with tomatoes. Juice like weak blood ran down chests. I looked at the men one by one, like a starved vampire. I had vowed to give it up, but here I was, wanting and needing. I tore off my shirt and laughed as a tomato hit my sternum.
“What is this?” I asked the stranger pushing my back.
“Running of the bulls. You better get moving.”
“Isn’t that in Spain?”
He laughed at me. “Today it’s here!”
“Where are the bulls?”
“They’re coming, somewhere behind us. You’ll know.”
* * *
I ran faster. Part of me wanted to run to safety but goring by a bull seemed like something I deserved. I thought I was going fast enough, but a surge knocked me down. From my knees I watched the river of men part. I heard the hooves on the street, and a snort, and when I turned they were just yards away. They didn’t look angry. Besides being very large creatures with horns they seemed non-threatening, farm bulls released for a day of jogging. Not the kind of bulls you fought. The blackest and sleekest dropped his head to me. He was almost delicate, like a brawny doctor with a needle: you won’t like this, but it will be quick, and you need it. It pierced my left side, between ribs. He looked me in the eye. A café worker in a white apron watched anxiously. When the bulls passed he brought out a metal chair and sat me down.
“Get me a Band-Aid,” I said.
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
He shrugged. He must have considered me a sissy in this city of bull runners. He returned with a tiny Band-Aid and tossed it. He carried out chairs and tables; the revelers would be back, looking for beer. He worked around me with a broom, eyeing the way I fussed over my blood. The broom made me wince. He brought me a napkin and shook his head. I thanked him and applied pressure to my souvenir.
The tables filled. I recognized some of the men. One noticed what I was doing with my right hand crossed under my left. He was very impressed. “One got you? That is awesome. You could have been killed.” He wanted a fist bump, but I nodded and acted unfriendly.
Eventually the man I’d spoken to on the street sat across from me. “Hi,” he said. “You weren’t very careful.” He had a constellation of tomato seeds on his chest.
“Taurus,” I said.
He noticed the way I guarded my wound, unlike some of the others, who displayed mere scratches as badges of courage. I saw he had guessed the secret of my blood, why I needed to keep it from the world. “I’m sorry,” he said, wandering off. I wanted to call out that I’d been OK for a while. I closed my eyes, dreaming of the scar and a future where I could show it.
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