Gitano hunched his shoulders against the bitter wind attempting to encourage the small fire, breaking up a twig and thrown the little pieces in absentmindedly. Despite the promise of spring, late snowfall lay in shallow drifts about the campsite. Notes from the music tent lilted faint upon his ears, whisked away almost immediately by the chilling breeze.
“You’re not going to draw a name from the jar this year?”
“Nelu, you should know not to creep up on folk deep in thought.”
“This festival brings all the Rromani together for the year. Its important for the continuity of our lines, for our future that everyone attends.”
Gitano ignored the clans matriarchs unsubtle nudging toward marriage. “We are due to leave in the next few days. I’ll leave the other lads to wear their chosens name on their sleeves. Its only a stupid superstition anyway.”
“Don’t be cussin the spirits or traditions” she cuffed him over the ears lightly – in a good mood but enough for him to know that she was displeased with his views. “ There are still a few days left and plenty of unmatched girls to get to know. When I left, I saw a few wistful lasses hugging hand stitched cambray shirts in your size.”
“Nelu, I don’t belong. I can’t be the son you think I should be.”
“Choose a name from the jar. Accept a shirt. Perhaps it will be your year Gitano, you will catch the eye of a pretty girl and she will join the clan; our clan. Just make sure she can sing and sew.”
He allowed a smile to cross his face.
“Our performances are the same without Lica.”
Nelus wrinkled hand reached over and clutched Gitanos shoulder. “I miss her too. We all do.”
“This” she gestured towards the caravans and the bright tents in the distance, “Has always been our way. We travel because its in our blood. It is our curse never to settle. We are not welcome anywhere and only tolerated in towns through our entertainment value. We must learn and keep learning new tricks, push our bodies further, perform new dangerous acts. And sometimes we are claimed by the spirits doing what we love.”
“I belong no-where.”
“You belong with us and you belong in the music tents tonight. We the traveling folk of the world meet to swap ideas, where matchmaking is done and much merriment is to be had. There is no room for sadness, or for regret.”
He shrugged and shook his head.
“An orphan with travelers who are welcome nowhere. This is the lot the spirits have thrown me.”
“You must forget your past, it has forsaken you. Your are clan now.”
“Alright Nelu. I’ll come over shortly. I promise”
He heard Nelu pick her way past the tethered dogs and horses, stopping momentarily to feed a titbit to Cur. Gitano could just make out the metallic jingle of the nose ring and chain followed by a low grumbling growl as the bear nuzzled her hand no doubt begging for more. Sitting by fire with the stars twinkling high in the heavens above him, the sounds of the camp settling down for another night of music making and dancing, he stared into the flames and wondered for the thousandth time who he was.