"You do me an honor." I turn to face a young man advancing towards me with a smile. It takes a moment for me to realize that I am photographing what must be his home. And in fact, I am even photographing his painting, that of an odd creature that catches my attention every day as I pass on my walk with the dogs. It decorates a flower-box hanging above a cobble-stone passage, mere steps from the Arena.
"I have always wondered what this little guy means," I stammer out. It is not often that conversations are started between strangers in Arles. "Ah, he is the God of the Bulls." His French has a Spanish accent. I widen my eyes in surprise and so he continues. "You see, he glows like the sun. And here, " he points to scraggly traces leading off on the right hand side,"these are the spirits of all of the bulls that were killed in the Arena." We both turn to look to where the souls had come from, the stone arches rising to the sky. "They come to the God of the Bulls and make him strong." I see the red behind the figure, the dark red of blood. "And so you have him here...on your house..." I try to find the words, "to protect you?"
There is a pause. That wasn't quite what I meant to say but between his accent and my own, there is something lost in the air, hanging. But we look at each other and nod. I nod again, we wish each other "Good Evening" and I turn to go.
Camera in hand, I continue my path but my thoughts are elsewhere. I remember that le Feria de Pâques, the Easter Bullfights is fast approaching.
There will be more souls for the God of the Bulls soon.