"Bill's!" the exclamation came from a ways off. I looked up, knowing that wasn't name, but relative certain they were talking to me. "What up, Bill's?" I nodded or sheepishly looked away. There wasn't ever a conversation that ever followed that greeting, usually with the voice trailing off into another. I am still perplexed to this day how it started or what the importance was.

I had a hunch even then, but mostly ignored it. "Bill's" was the name of a discount store in Greenfield in the early nineties, and in the minds of the teenagers three or four years older than myself, it was all they knew me by. Given its reputation as the modern day equivalent of a Dollar Tree in a city a full hour from even the nearest Sears, I think they were simply saying "Hey! Poor kid!"

Which is odd, given that I see my upbringing as a rather fortunate one. The greeting and subsequent ignoring lasted all the way through middle school, even after the store itself had closed. By that point, it became more of a " ... Bill's" and a nod when passing in the hallway.

I don't think those guys (usually male, but sometimes a girl joined in) even remembered why it started, and may at that point simply didn't have another name to call me. I was, and remain, rather shy with new people.

It was actually a seventh grade math teacher, no older than 30 herself at the time, who pulled me aside one day and asked why her freshmen called me Bill's. "Is that your middle name?"

"Beats me. I never asked," I replied. For a nerdy looking kid with thick plastic glasses, I was relieved that was the worst of the harassment I got in a typical day. My own classmates obviously picked up that slack whenever possible.

These days, my last name is used far more often than my first when greeting or calling for me. But for a little while in 1990s, I had an extra name that I might under the right circumstances still answer to.