It had been years since the circus had last come across Italy, always deciding on another country or destination in its stead. And yet, now that they were back, now that the sweet scent of spring lay heavily in the air and the birds sang like they only did within the hills and the fields of Tuscany, it seemed like they had never left at all. The air smelled just like Ioni had remembered it. Somehow salty, though the ocean was kilometres away and somehow sweet, as if the gusto for sweet strawberry ice cream and refreshing lemon sorbet ran, not just within the human occupants of the towns and cities, but also through the fabric of the country itself. It smelled like the earth after a rainstorm, ready to burst back into sunshine and blooms and yet, for the purpose of the circus, Ioni knew that dew would hang around the field during the next couple of days, wrapping their chosen area of performance in a mystical land of fog. For that was how it always began.
Depending on where they went or whom they would find on the other side, the circus was known to change its appearance. It would transform in whatever way it deemed necessary to bring the most amount of joy to the people around, who – undoubtedly – would come to queue outside the gates soon enough, even if the circus never announced its arrival and without knowing what wonders lay behind the delicate iron rods. These rods – the fence – stayed the same wherever they went, helping to keep out the overly excited until the right moment and to reach out an inviting hand to the shy ones, who remained in front of the gate indecisively, pondering the yeses and noes, the pros and cons of entering a place that smelled of magic and salted pistachios, long after the performances had started and all other guests had rushed in. Since the beginning, these cautious ones had always been around and though they only formed a small minority against the bulk of people rushing through the gates as if scared the circus would simply vanish if they didn’t enter quite quickly enough, they had always been especially appreciated by the artists and wonders behind the fence. After all, if given the chance, most of them would have joined them in their silent awe or had done so, on the few occasions they themselves had decided to wander through the place, swapping their costumes for the fresh eyes of someone walking through the tents for the very first time.
In the past, the circus had sometimes resembled a fantastical famer’s market or an extraordinary carnival; when in Italy, it had most often taken the shape of a colourful Luna Park, a massive Ferris wheel towering over the field or the parking lot they had chosen as the perfect destination for their performances. In a way, Ioni had wished to return to the land of pasta and sunshine like that, surrounded by blinking lights and the jolly sounds of the attractions. She hadn’t had the chance to frolic in this particular environment in a long time and would have quite liked the chance to move her show to the outside, swinging between the construction poles of a Ferris wheel or being catapulted into the air by some other form of roller coaster. It was performances like these that usually rendered the audience speechless on a level that made it impossible for them to dump their wishes into Ioni’s lap, like a screaming child being unceremoniously handed back to its mother, should they find her in the crowd after the act. It was also these kinds of performances that brought back a spark of joy to Ioni’s work, that made her heart jump happily and fast within her body and that reminded her of a time in which all her life had revolved around whether she could add yet another somersault to the soundtrack of the audience’s excited gasps. These gasps had a tendency to grow even louder if confronted with a performance outside of what a normal human would deem a respectable stage – a dark tent, a trapeze construction, a layer of nets to save the artists from falling – and put them into a position where they had to look – for looking away was simply impossible – at someone flying through the shadows of a tree or between the mechanical movements of a Ferris wheel. It was this novelty that drew Ioni to it, had her wishing for a Luna Park during their travels and yet, it wasn’t here choice to decide where to appear or which form to take next. In fact, it never fell to the circus’ artists to decide either their next destination or the appearance the circus would take once arrived. There was, you see, not just the scent of magic in the air.