At the end of The Trion Syndrome, Dave, the protagonist, decides to leave Maine and return to Maryland to face the life he has abandoned and rehabilitate himself. As I wrote of Dave’s willingness to face his past mistakes and reestablish himself as an honorable and respectable man, I realized I was telling my own story. My own bouts with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) were as serious as those I described for Dave, and, like Dave, my reception when I returned to the states during the Vietnam war—being spit upon, called a “baby killer” and a “butcher”—aggravated my PTSI. But I was more successful than he: I faced my memories head-on. Dave drives his into his unconscious from whence they torture him.
As Dave rethinks the Trion story, both the original myth and the Thomas Mann retelling, he comes to understand that Trion was culpable for his actions: “Trion, like Dave, had a choice. Despite everything that had happened to Trion, despite everything he’d done, despite his genes and the y chromosome and testosterone, he was not condemned by fate. He could have lived up to the good in him.” Trion’s sin was surrendering, “not having the balls to be the man the gods made him to be. Settling for too little.”
Dave understands that the likelihood is that he won’t be able to recover the life his struggle with PTSI has cost him:
“What if Mary never took him back? She probably wouldn’t. What if [his children] Chip and Jeannie rejected him? They wouldn’t want the tramp he’d become for a father. What if he had to do construction work or teach German in high school or wait tables or pump gas? What if he landed in jail? What if the whole world turned against him, ridiculed him, spat in his face, called him a baby killer? If he wanted not to be Trion, if he wanted to be himself, he had to go home to Maryland no matter what else happened. . . .
“He’d grown a couple of notches. How many more notches lay ahead? Would they all hurt so much?”
Dave returns to Maryland, just as I did after the fall of Saigon, to face the reconstruction of the life he must live. To live up to his potential. To become, in the fullness of living, the man God made him to be.
The lesson of The Trion Syndrome, the lesson I learned while writing it, is that salvation means being all we can be.