I’d never heard anyone criticize my father except Shawn, and I wasn’t able to respond to it. I wanted to tell Charles about the Illuminati, but the words belonged to my father, and even in my mind they sounded awkward, rehearsed. I was ashamed at my inability to take possession of them. I believed then—and part of me will always believe—that my father’s words ought to be my own.

Charles said my behavior was self-destructive, that I had an almost pathological inability to ask for help. He told me this on the phone, and he said it so quietly it was almost a whisper.

If someone had asked me, I’d have said Charles was the most important thing in the world to me. But he wasn't. And I would prove it to him. What was important to me wasn’t love or friendship, but my ability to lie convincingly to myself: to believe I was strong. I could never forgive Charles for knowing I wasn’t.