It was 1959 in Pamplona, Hemingway had gone on a picnic with a girl 40 years his junior, and we were going to the bullfights. This was the summer Dominguín and his brother-in-law Ordóñez were fighting mano a mano. Hemingway would describe their rivalry in Dangerous Summer. I don’t know whether I could enjoy a bullfight now, but in those days, we were mesmerized by his accounts in The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon.
I believe I was at the bullfights when I met two tall good-looking Englishmen in their early 20s, who were part of Hemingway’s entourage. They had perfectly ordinary English names like Richard and Gerald. But Gerald insisted his name was French and we call him “Gerá.” Obviously, I preferred Richard. They’d gone to Malaga to teach English, but on a visit to a friend of “Gera’s” parents, they saw a man with a white beard climb out of the pool. They ridiculed “Santa,” until they realized the man they were sneering at was Ernest Hemingway.
“I’m going to Pamplona tomorrow. Why don’t you boys come with me,” Ernest said and so they joined Papa’s youth entourage.
I needed a ride to Barcelona and a young American offered to give me a lift. He would leave early the next morning. And I would get a second chance to meet one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.
The Plaza del Castillo was empty in the cool at six the next morning. While I waited for my ride, Richard, who was going back to Malaga for his job at Berlitz, sat down with me and ordered a café con leche. Suddenly, Hemingway appeared, alone. Now’s my chance, I thought. His entourage is still asleep. I remember Richard standing, shaking hands, and thanking him. I sat up straight, waiting to be introduced.
I remember Hemingway asking Richard to stay and follow the bullfights with him. I remember smiling my prettiest smile. I remember the two men clasping hands. I remember Hemingway leaving.
“I was sitting right here. You didn’t introduce me!"
“Why?” Richard asked. “What did you want to say to him?”
Two years later, the same week the bulls ran in Pamplona, the world’s most admired writer, the winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, walked out onto his porch in Ketchum, Idaho and put a bullet in his head.
There may have been a thousand people in Plaza del Castillo the summer I didn’t meet Ernest Hemingway. Today there are tens of thousands.
Here’s a link to what the fiesta of San Fermin has become: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/07/photos-the-festival-of-san-fermin-2013/100553/