Bulls, Baggies and Broken Bones
I’ve always prided myself in being (sometimes stupidly) fearless. Willingly participate in a life-threatening event? Count me in. So when the opportunity arose to attend the Running of the Bulls festival in Spain, I was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to cross this one off the bucket list.
But then a few days prior, something changed. I began to feel uneasy. Some would call it cowardice, some would call it common sense. Was my willingness to participate actually just a death wish?
The bull runs occur daily for 10 days, so I had plenty of opportunities. A group of friends were heading in one morning, and I finally decided to join them. We donned the official get up of a white shirt, white pants, and a red scarf around the neck. Boarding the bus at 7am for a 15 minute ride into Pamplona, I was wired. I’d done all the right things: no drinking the night before, went to bed early, no drinking the morning of. But needless to say, I still just didn’t feel right about it. I told myself I’d make my final decision once we arrived.
It got to the last second – I had to decide now. And I chickened out. I’m young and healthy and I don’t want to die. I’m trying to make the “smart” choice here, give me some credit. Whatever, I guess I’m not as fearless as I thought. So with my tail between my legs I joined the half of the group who were observing from the stadium. Maybe after I’ve watched the run I’ll feel more comfortable, and then I’ll do it tomorrow, I tell myself. The run that morning had been perfect. No one was injured and the bulls didn’t turn around, which is when most injuries and deaths occur. I should’ve done it.
That night, we were out in the town of Pamplona. It was off to a weird start. I helped a friend fight her way through the K-Hole, got very lost in the Spanish streets, and finally reached our destination of a carnival. There were huge rides, beautiful lights, and the contagious energy of being in a foreign country with strangers who were quickly becoming family. There’s nothing like the loss of inhibitions to bring people together. So my new family and I were ecstatic, going on terrifying rides while our brains struggled to comprehend what was going on.
Then we decide to go on the bucking bull ride.
“Oh haha how funny let’s go on the bucking bulls at the Running of the Bulls!”
I found my pockets empty of change so decided to sit this one out. That’s when a friend called me over – they’d bought me a ticket.
So we jump on and we’re falling all over the place and jumping across the bulls and generally being miscreants. Then I fall off and land a bit funny. I can’t get up for a second. When the ride stops I pull myself up and my entire left arm feels wrong. I’m numb enough that I don’t know exactly what it is. I start rolling my shoulder back, thinking that it might be dislocated and that I could just pop it back into place. It’s that easy, isn’t it? No success.
“I think something’s wrong with my arm,” I say to one of the boys.
He frowns, gently feels my upper arm, and I watch as his eyes slowly but significantly widen.
“Don’t,” I say. “Don’t tell me.”
He searches for what to say.
“We’re gonna go to the hospital.”
My arm is completely limp. As I’m walking I can feel the bones grinding together. We let the rest of the group know we’re leaving and of course chaos follows.
“Are you alright? What happened? OH MY GOD WHAT let me look at it!”
Of course they meant well, but yelling at a little girl with a broken arm and a brain full of horse tranquilizer isn’t the best idea. It’s about this point that my fingers start tingling – and not in the good way.
Eventually we find a taxi, and a long and painful car ride to the hospital follows. As sobriety’s cruel grip tightens on me, I begin to feel the pain. By the time we get to the hospital, snot and tears are dribbling from every crevice on my face. X-rays and waiting rooms and unbridled sobs follow.
“Your humerus is broken,” the doctor says in a thick Spanish accent. “You cannot travel. You must go home.”
I don’t think I stop crying for about six hours.
Take what you will from this story, but my advice? Whatever your metaphoric bulls are – run with them.
Cover by bikehitscar; inset from the hospital