Gary never belonged.
Even younger brother Bruce never played Robin to Gary’s Batman.
Gary’s folks prided themselves on being highly religious. While denomination doesn’t really matter so far as Gary’s isolation goes, it does matter that they ignored the “brotherhood of humanity” aspects and focused instead on finding the teeniest excuse that would allow them to condemn others. Those who really met their extensive criteria for “goodness” could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Gary was not one of those fingers.
And the more alone he felt, the more he acted out. The more he acted out, the more his parents meted out punishment. Spankings for untoward behavior may have been a good idea; locking him in the closet, less so. Deciding that he wasn’t worthy of their love — priceless.
Unable to navigate the impossibly contradictory maze of strictures and scriptures of his parents, his church, his school and his peer group, Gary lost himself in the worlds of books. Those worlds had damsels, dragons, and doubts, and in the end, the hero triumphed.
Gary seldom felt triumph in his world. The more he saw himself as a loser, the more he warped his perception. On rare occasions when someone gave him an honest compliment, he discounted it. When kids made overtures to be his friend, he avoided the pain of an inevitable falling out by simply never showing any interest.
Gary struggled through school, and got a job working in a factory where management discouraged interactions with others. He said little but did much. Gary had a knack for diagnosing and fixing issues with the assembly line and the machines that ran it.
Gary was fired anyway.
Low on money, Gary hitchhiked to Washington State.
Alone, surrounded by a rainbow of intense alpine flowers, staring at the clear summit of Rainier, he felt — he knew he did belong. That insight hit him so hard, an observer would have thought Gary had been struck with an invisible bat. One second later, Gary realized that he had always belonged.
And at every moment.