A reader asked, does Dave, the protagonist of The Trion Syndrome, go through the same struggles I went through? That was the case with Last of the Annamese—I attributed my own experiences to that novel’s protagonist, Chuck.
The answer for Trion is mostly no. I learned early on that I had to face my memories and learn to live with them. Dave in Trion does not. He tries to run away from them. The result is the nightmares and flashbacks he suffers. I went through those, too, in the beginning, but then I forced myself to write down what had happened to me and brought the memories into my conscious mind. I escaped most of what Dave goes through.
What I didn’t escape—and what Dave endures as well—was the collapse of my marriage. In my case, a major factor was my wife’s indifference to my illness and needs. I ponder thirty-odd years after the fact the possibility that she never loved me. I wonder if she was even capable of love. I’m now relatively sure that she was emotionally damaged from childhood.
Dave’s story is different. His wife, Mary, genuinely loves him, and he returns her love. But in his soul-struggles, Dave questions whether he, like Trion in Thomas Mann’s short story, is even able to love. Because Mary is sexually unresponsive, due to being raped as a child, Dave, who knows nothing of her childhood trauma, comes to believe she doesn’t love him. He has an affair with a very responsive woman. That ends the marriage.
Another difference between Dave and me is that he suffers from aquaphobia, whereas I enjoy the water and am a good swimmer. The contrast between us comes from our very different childhoods.
The biggest difference between me and Dave is his flirting with suicide. He loses everything—his job, his family, even his self-respect. His memories of what he did in Vietnam and his profound sense of guilt make him want to end his life. He considers doing it in the way that most terrifies him, drowning.
More next time.