And if anyone knows how to get around the commenting problem, please let me know! I can only comment on pop-up comment window forms.
Onto the word...
Javel - n, a wandering or dirty fellow; a vagabond.
There was a note in my 1828 Webster's that said this word was used by Edmund Spenser. So, I did a search with Google books to see if I could find a passage that used javel. I found one, but the print was so incredibly tiny and the context so totally confusing, that I cannot possibly share it in good conscious. It seems, though, that Spenser used this word to mean a slandering fellow. I'm not sure how he turned a wanderer into a slanderer, but he did. The general consensus on the meaning of the word is the above definition, so we're going to run with it.
We're actually going to run right into the story because the Spenserian note is the only tangent I could find to go off on this word. So:
"Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I wasn't, well, me.
But I am me, obviously. And I've always been this way. My life has always been this way. Just me and Dad wandering from one place to the next. "It's who we are, son. Nomads." That's what he always says, with this gargantuan smile on his face like it's the best identity imaginable. You'd think, after fifteen years of roaming together, that he'd notice how fake my smile is when he says it now. How I don't say anything and just look out the window instead. Maybe he thinks I'm admiring whatever landscape it is we're passing. I've seen them all though - desert, forest, plain, mountain, you name it - so there's isn't exactly anything to admire anymore.
I've tried to tell him that nomads only exist in books about ancient Middle Eastern cultures. They rode on camels, not in cars. They're not supposed to exist in the 21st century. "Nonsense," he'll say. "Nomads have existed since time began and they will continue to exist. You should be proud to be one." Yeah. Proud. Right.
I introduced myself as a vagabond the other day. We had stopped at a gas station and there was a kid my age in the chip isle. We had a ten-second debate on which flavor of Doritos was best (I won) and then he held out his hand. "I'm Chip." (No joke. The dude's name was Chip). So I shook his hand and said, "Hey, I'm Trace. I'm a vagabond." I don't know how Dad heard, last I knew he was on the opposite side of the store, but he was furious. Back in the car, I tried to sell it as nomad pride. That didn't fly so well.
I got my thesaurus out that night and my dictionary that's so old it's flaking all over the insides of my backpack. I found a word that defines me in two syllables. So I asked Dad if I could change my name while I rammed my books back into the pack. I told him I was tired of Trace. He just shrugged. "If you like, son." I guess indifference to anything that supposed to be permanent (like names, and homes) goes with being a nomad. I smiled, probably the first genuine smile I've smiled in a while, and thanked him. Then I put my seat down, closed my eyes, and said my new name to myself.