I can’t help but wonder if anybody has passed by on the highway to see a clear image of my sleeping face smashed up against the window on the bus.
Later, I open my eyes to see an almost empty little town. The streets are empty. Then again, it is 2 o’clock. The infamous siesta. When everybody goes back into their cave to eat, sleep, drink wine, do something other than being outside. The town still seems smaller than what I always imagined it would be. The buildings are rusty. I wonder where the bulls are at.
As I step out of the bus, I immediately can feel a change in temperature. It is much cooler than Madrid. The air brushes against my arms.
I walk around the quiet ghost town and notice a family dressed in white pants with red handkerchiefs tied around their necks. The dad has his black hair slicked back. They slowly walk behind their child who runs onto the playground eager to get on the red swing with a few other children all dressed in red and white. The child has a tiny red scarf dangling from his waist.
I decided to come to Pamplona to take a break from my study abroad semester in Madrid. I had always wanted to explore Pamplona out of curiosity (a curiosity that sought out to see firsthand how people were so willing to risk death to celebrate life) so here I am. I go to a tienda china, a Chinese store as the Spaniards say, nearby to purchase red and white clothes. I heard that these little shops are often times the most affordable. I tie a red scarf around my waist. The store clerk asks me what shirt size and he gives me a white shirt with red spots on it and a bull centered in the middle. The streets are so empty I decide to try on my shirt outside. No one walks by. I decide to buy the entire uniform including the handkerchief and the red scarf.
The size of the city cannot sustain the crowds. The sun starts to set upon the city home to the eight-day festival of Sanfermines. The festival honors the co-patron saint of one of the northern kingdoms of Spain who is believed by some to have met his death by being dragged by angry bulls on the streets of Pamplona. As I walk on the overcrowded streets I can see the same shirts I bought being sold at a cheaper price. I notice steam coming out of the many food stands. I follow the smell of grilled chicken marinated in lemon juice. A heavy man wearing a black polo shirt and a red beret comes out. His white hair sticks out of his tilted beret and his white mustache covers his lips. I see Paella, mountains of yellow rice in pans large enough to feed half the city. The pans are so big it takes four men to carry each pan. The yellow rice is plump, the Spanish call it Arroz Bomba or fat little grains of rice. Slices of red bell pepper lay on top of the rice along with large rings of calamari. The mussels are as big as my hand. The grilled chicken is to the side of the stand on a grill with sausage that’s literally on fire. The older gentleman serves me a plate of Paella with the biggest lemon wedge possible. I close my eyes with each bite. I’m expecting to wake up but every time I open my eyes, I see heaps of yellow rice and calamari on my plate.