?

When I was tiny, I would lie in bed and barrage my father with questions before he left after attempting to put me to sleep. In a desperate attempt to keep the sliver of light from the quarter-open door there a minute longer, I would ask him:

?

What did I ask him? What was on my mind when I was 8? What was it like to have musings that could be laid to rest with a parent’s reply, spoken as confidently and reassuringly as “good night?” I don’t remember. Maybe it had something to do with penguins, or China, or Star Wars? All things that I still wonder about now, though probably in very different ways. 

What I do remember, though, is what my father would say to me, his voice tinged with a bit of pride, perhaps, and more than a bit of exasperation: “What, did someone hit you over the head with the question stick?” 

?

I think that’s where it first took hold: the force of a question, the subtle violence of not knowing, but wanting to know, that could whack you real hard and leave your brains throbbing for days afterward. 

?

It was a curved, twisted thing, hovering over the tiny dot of my grade school head like an omen. I didn’t think this then, of course. It was fun. I was in control. I had taken hold of a question stick of my own. I was using it to lightly prod some age-appropriate fun facts out of the seemingly infinite expanse of my father’s already balding head. 

?

As I got older, the question stick, if you will allow me to continue with that metaphor, started to twist some more, morph. It started to seem like the question stick wasn’t a stick at all but had been sparked to life and was now starting to wriggle like a worm, or a snake (though I had always really liked snakes). In more evangelistic moods, I see it as a typographic rendering of that old story I learned in Sunday School: writhing temptation pointing to a small piece of forbidden fruit, the original sin of biting into knowledge you shouldn’t know. 

Quite unstuck, the question snake curled around me. Squeezed. Held me too tight and whispered, “Why are you here? Who are you? Who are you to be here?” 

?

You would, I suppose, call this being a teenager, would you not? Yes? A tiny person emerging to an awareness of their tininess?  

?

Sure. 

?

For the past ? years, this twisting? morphing? metaphor? mark? has stayed by my side, like a sword? or a pet? or a tapeworm? or a ghost who really just can’t let it go and move on? 

?

Now, I see it as a self-portrait, or see myself as a reflection of it, bent into this ancient ? of uncertainty. I’m hunched over, an eternal navel-gazer, grasping and rationalizing but always hovering just out of reach of the point. 

?

?

?

What’s next?

?