The novel, The Trion Syndrome, tells of the struggle of Dave Bell, the protagonist, against Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). His marriage fails, his children won’t talk to him, and he loses his job. Rather than fight back, he runs away to northern Maine, where he gets a job in a gas station and lives in a storage shed while he contemplates suicide.
Dave’s story is similar to my own. After the fall of Saigon, I returned to the world (that’s what we called the U.S.) a physical and emotional wreck. I had amoebic dysentery, pneumonia, and ear damage. And I was a living example of PTSI, although we didn’t have a name for it back then. My wife and four children had just returned to the U.S. after a grand tour of the world (Asia, Europe) following their evacuation from Vietnam 20 days before Saigon fell. They were staying at her father’s house in Massachusetts. I telephoned her and asked her to come to Maryland as soon as possible. I told her I was very sick and needed her help. She turned me down.
That was May 1975. She and the children finally came home in July after I’d been able to get our house back from the family that had leased it for three years in 1974. I had to face my ghosts on my own. The marriage was over.
Dave Bell finds salvation through his son. I found mine by writing and helping others. By the end of Trion, Dave understands that he’ll never be free of his memories—he’ll have to face them and come to terms with them. In that respect, he and I are the same.