In The Trion Syndrome, the protagonist Dave flees. His marriage has collapsed, he’s lost his job, his children won’t see him. His life is in ruins. He runs away to rural Maine where he ekes out a living as a gas station attendant, sleeps in a storage shed, and considers suicide. He lives in poverty.
I can write about poverty. I’ve been there. When I was a child, my lawyer father went to prison for embezzling money from his client. My mother was an alcoholic. We were so poor that at times I didn’t have anything to eat. Throughout high school and college, I worked for as much as twenty hours a week at part-time jobs to survive. I suffered my first bout of exhaustion at the end of my senior year in college (University of California, Berkeley) and missed my graduation ceremony.
In short, I know whereof I speak as I write about Dave’s squeaking by on next to nothing. Exemplary is his need to replace his watch, a necessity for a working man who deals with the public. He finds the money to buy the cheapest Timex by cutting back on what he eats.
In my case but not in Dave’s, my time of being poor taught me important lessons. I learned of my own resiliency. My self-reliance, born of having to take care of myself as a child when my parents were absent or unable, was honed. I was a better man for it. That knack for relying on myself saw me through the fall of Saigon.