“It was very painful. I got a beanie out of it, though.”
It was the very end of a conversation. I didn’t hear the rest of it, and I never actually found out exactly what was painful. Yoghurt didn’t seem to immediately understand that I didn’t know what a beanie was. Judging by a quick look at Robinson, he didn’t know either, but attempted his usual unfazed grin.
It was a couple more days of camping before he said it again.
“You’ve got a beanie, innit, ILB?” said Yoghurt blithely.
“A what?” I said, before I could stop myself. “I mean, I’ve got a beanbag at home.”
Which was true. I’d had the same Thomas the Tank Engine beanbag since I was very young. I probably still have it somewhere, along with the Super Mario Bros. 2 cushion and my Year 8 maths textbook.
“A bird?” amended Yoghurt, at which point it clicked.
“Oh! A girlfriend! You’re asking if I have a girlfriend!”
“Like I said. A beanie.”
I had a brief, violent internal struggle at this. I’d never heard of the term beanie (and, to date, I haven’t heard it again). I was aware of bird, but had always assumed that to be slightly pejorative. At the age of 15, I’d started speaking up about it. Plus, I was still something of a fan of the term girlfriend, which I felt more comfortable using.
“Uh… no. No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” I answered, putting the stress on the word that I was using that wasn’t ‘beanie’.
It also took me a few minutes to puzzle out exactly what had caused him to come to this conclusion, considering the fact that I was (in)famously completely unable to get anywhere with romantic relationships, and my long-term crushes were legendary. At this time, I was into the silver girl in my Year 10 German class, to the point that I was writing poetry about her. Never a good sign.
But then I remembered. At Woodcraft a couple of months ago I’d been talking, at some length, about the girl at school who flirted with me a lot. As it turns out, she wasn’t interested – just playing – but I liked the attention. I may have, at one point, considered her a girlfriend, but that wasn’t the case, and now I’m going to stop writing about this because it hurts.
This was almost certainly what Yoghurt had decided translated as “I have a girlfriend”. I didn’t, at any point, actually say that. I wished I did, but I didn’t.
“I wish I did, but I don’t,” I added helpfully, as a way of giving enough supplementary information to satiate his questioning ways.
“Ah. Thought you did. My mistake,” he said sagely and began to slink off to… wherever it is he was going.
“Beanie,” I said to myself. “Really?”
And, as I started composing a song about the girl I did like in my head, Squirrel ran up and pushed me headfirst into my tent.
I do hope he didn’t hear a single word.