I’ve been suffering from a Smiths earworm, triggered by crossing the railway bridge at London Road station.
“William, it was really nothing,” starts droning inside my head.
Not even an accurate earworm, because clearly it must have been something, whatever it was that caused whoever it was to paint the words on the pavement just before you cross the bridge.
“THANKYOU, WILLIAM X” it read in large, bold print that everyone who passed through or over the station would see.
Whatever William did, it was clearly something, for someone to go to such lengths. But who is William? And what did he do that it merited indelible thanks?
“Belated thanks - to William The Conqueror?” suggested a North Village resident who is no stranger to pavement declamations.
“It was on the Level, before it got re-done,” he reminisces. “Dribbled in white paint. ‘HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME??’”
“Perhaps it was William,” I mused. “And he’s finally atoned.”
After the appearance of the pavement words, another friend, Will, started smiling an irritating, slightly enigmatic smile and saying, softly under his breath: “My pleasure to be of help.”
Meantime, my out-of-town nephew thought it was “obviously written by a time-travelling knight, thanking Elizabeth II’s eighth great-grandson, William X, for sending him back in time to foment anti-European sentiments and trigger Brexit. His actions saved the island from the robot wizard apocalypse that obliterates Europe in 2023. In 2202, London Road Station is the court of the House of Middleton, official residence of William X.”
But this is the North Village.
“William E Cross, Jr, PhD is a leading theorist and researcher in the field of ethnic identity development, specifically black identity,” said a resident who prefers not to identify herself.
Someone else suggested another William we know. But when I agreed it might be him, because the words were right outside the Open House pub, which is one of his regular watering holes, he started acting miffed, saying I was creating the impression he’s a hard drinker, when really I thought I was creating the impression that he was the sort of person who did things that merited large painted public declarations of gratitude.
Over the days the earworm morphs. “William, it was really something” I find myself singing, in a kind of upbeat not-very-Morrissey-ish way.
And then the rain starts. Turns out the paint is not quite as indelible as it looked. The thanks to William becomes fainter until, finally, it disappears altogether.
I’m hopeful that the earworm will do the same, but it simply morphs again – back to it being really nothing, William.
It’s deeply irritating, as is the fact I am none the wiser as to William’s identity or kind deed.
But here’s to hoping that by putting this story into 8pt Janson font, it might prompt someone who knows to tell me.
William, what did you do? The North Village wants to know…