When I was 10, I startedkeeping a diary. It begins harmlessly enough: “At school we got our desks moved. I watched television.” But within a few months, I began adding the words “I think” in tiny letters after my simple, declarative sentences. Stating “Dad and John went uptown” as if it were incontrovertible fact struck me as hubristic at best and utterly fraudulent at worst. How did I know they had gone uptown? They might have been whisked off by aliens and have led long, full lives in another dimension before being dropped back home. Anything could have happened. Gradually, I developed a shorthand notation for “I think,” a curvy sort of circumflex. The function of this symbol expanded to become not just a way of safeguarding the truth but also a way of safeguarding the subject I was writing about. I started drawing it right over words, particularly people’s names. And most particularly over every “I” I wrote. My entries grew more and more illegible. I don’t know exactly what was going on in my life or my family that caused me to go so unhinged. My diary entries are no help at all, continuing otherwise implacably. “We went swimming.” “Mother, John, and I went to church.” But as I got the diary out just now to look at it, I found something very interesting. Right around the time I turned 11, the tic reached a fevered pitch. I was now drawing the circumflex not just over single words but over the whole day’s entry. Then on Sept. 17, I wrote, “Dad showed us the dead people.” I remember this vividly. My father was a funeral director, and there had been a terrible accident that day. A distant cousin of mine, my age, was one of three people killed in a car wreck. My father took my brothers and I into the embalming room to see this boy, lying grey and naked on a table. His neck had been broken. My father didn’t say anything, just pulled back the sheet and showed him to us. The next two days in my diary are the worst yet, almost completely obscured with my symbols. Last week Amy and I had dinner with Sarah. We were talking about how religious rituals are basically a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior designed to ward off death. We extrapolated from this that the underlying motivation for every conceivable human activity, no matter how trivial, was the fear of death, or “F.O.D.,” as we began abbreviating it. I have no idea how I’m going to illustrate this entry. The dead boy and a massage I had today are the only things that conjure up concrete images–and in fact they’re the same one: a naked person lying on a table under a sheet. But that seems redundant after yesterday’s “Corpse” drawing, so I’ve got to come up with something else. Maybe I’ll cheat and just scan in some of my childhood diary.