You Can’t Fill Your Holes with Dick
By Torie Gehrig
(Note from the Author: This is not some sappy self help shit, but rather, an
admittedly self-involved narrative that I hope you can relate to)
When I was 27 years old, I packed my bags and left.
I guess that sounds pretty dramatic, but it is literally what I did.
I’ve never been the new girl in school. I spent my childhood in Cincinnati, Ohio in the same house and basically attended the same school with the same friends for the entirety of my primary education. In college, everyone was the new kid and Chicago, which was where I spent nearly a decade of my post-adolescent life, was always only a Megabus ride away from home.
Chicago wasn’t too difficult to settle into. Classes kept me busy and focused, but I spent the majority of my collegiate years somewhat listlessly in a cloud of pot smoke longing for a community.
A casual friend of mine who went to a different school invited me out to a concert at Millennium Park one day during the summer between my junior and senior year. In a somewhat overdue sense, she became a great friend and I’m glad that we finally connected, but that day I also noticed how many cute, interesting guy friends she had.
Up until that point, I hadn’t yet met many boys whom I considered worthy adversaries. The guys I went to high school with were a bunch of preppy trust fund brats who hosted “stripper Sundays,” thought The Beatles were “gay” – and I mean gay as in stupid here (we all know that John Lennon and Brian Epstein possibly bumped uglies at some point.) Consequently, I’d spent the last four years in the company of a bunch of theater nerds (not too many opportunities for dick there), so just to meet a dude who had so much as a record collection filled a longing for likeness that had been eating away at me.
By some miracle, things clicked that day and the next four years were filled with a blissful and undeniable feeling of connection. I finally met the girls and boys who could make me laugh so hard that I pissed my pants. I found my girl gang, my best guy friends, eventually I joined a band. Finally, I had found an enclave of individuals who felt like my creative equals. I’d finally found my peers.
I also entered into the four-year saga of an off-and-on relationship with a boy who was in many ways very much like myself. It was frequently turbulent, exhausting and often unhealthy. That being said, it was also my first taste of genuine intimacy and, I suppose, love. Over time, he became like an organ pulsing amidst the currents of my bloodstream. Not a vital one to be sure, but a part of my body nonetheless – not so easy to shake unless I wanted to go into surgery.
Naturally though, things started to change. As we progressed through our 20s, my friends and I got saddled with non-bullshit jobs, serious relationships and eventually people actually started to have kids. People also began moving away - some of them, my best friends. The aforementioned “non-vital organ” referred to these forays away as “spirit quests.” I wasn’t ready to leave yet but I knew I eventually wanted to have one of my own.
During the winter of 2015, I went through an especially rough patch. I’ll spare you the details but all I can say is that adjusting the hard knocks of adulthood isn’t easy when you are a 26–year old millennial with the coping skills of a 13 year-old.
That February, I traveled down to Austin, Texas to see my nephew get baptized. I’d been to Austin previously but never before had it felt like such an oasis. After months of darkness and near subzero temperatures, the feeling of walking outside in a skirt and bare legs hit me like a small orgasm. I also happened to meet a personal icon, Sissy Spacek. I’d always loved her movies and identified proudly with her pretty, offbeat “gingerness.” It felt like a sign. Though I didn’t totally know it yet, that was the moment that my compass began to point south.
The following November, I got three arrows tattooed on my forearm to signify the transition and in January of 2016, I ripped off the proverbial band-aid and left Chicago to start my life in Austin, Texas.
When people talk about moving, they rarely discuss the grief that comes along with it. When you move to a new place in your late 20s where you essentially don’t know a soul apart from two brand new, stressed out parents and their young son, loneliness becomes about more than not having anyone to hang out with on a Friday night.
It’s the silence.
In our tech-saturated world, few things feel as eerily isolating as a phone that never rings. Making new connections is a slow uphill climb and opening my phone to a blank screen night after night despite efforts to branch out made the social butterfly in me feel strange and defeated.
The aftershocks of my massive life change started to fuck with my head and my body. I underwent sudden, abrupt physical shifts that were out of my control and because of these, old demons that previously lay dormant remerged and began to rear their ugly heads with more intensity than ever. I would wake up in the mornings with stomach pangs wondering what the fuck I had done. Things weren’t coming together socially and I began to get sick of feeling like I had to prove myself worthy of someone’s friendship.
At some point during this time, the non-vital organ started seeing someone new. In my gut, I’d seen it coming but due to my isolation, I selfishly started to miss him even though I’d been “over it af” when I’d left. I was being unfair and he rightfully called me out on it.
I knew that both of us needed to move on, otherwise whatever cycle we were in was never going to break. But he was a part of me and I already felt like I’d lost so much of myself, so I responded very childishly in the only way I knew how – I performed surgery. By surgery I mean blocking him on every platform so he couldn’t contact me. I essentially killed him off – which kind of hurt more. I figured it would be less painful than watching him fade away in real time as evidence of this girl began to pop up on social media.
My disembowelment of the non-vital organ was an impulsive attempt to gain an upper hand and assert some control over a situation where I felt like the loser. But I’ve always had shaky hands and it was a messy operation. Safe to say the incision marks I made were not clean and they didn’t heal very easily.
After this debacle, I tried to fill the hole formed by the loss. I don’t mean to be crude here, but I actually do mean this both literally and figuratively.
The first dude was a guy I met at Austin’s answer to what I refer to as a “piece of shit disaster bar” a-la The Owl in Chicago. He started making out with me on the dance floor and in my blurry-eyed intoxication I figured he was cute enough. He took me back to his douchy high rise and we fucked while his friends smoked blunts in the living room of his pseudo one bedroom. Right before he put his dick in me, I asked him who he was voting for. Affronted by the personal nature of my question, he reluctantly dropped the name of some libertarian who I don’t remember. I figured that was good enough. You have to be careful in Texas and I just couldn’t bear to let a Republican fuck me.
The next notable specimen was a Chicago import like myself. I hooked up with him the night before my 28th birthday and for about a day I actually believed liked him. Then during a discussion about gender neutrality, he somehow thought that might be a prudent time to tell me that he’d sucked on a bottle till he was nine. Aghast and horrified, all I could see from that moment on was a giant baby, so I bolted before he could bust out the diapers. This may sound harsh, but he was kind of a weirdo anyways.
The next dude was the most significant to date. Unfortunately he was covered in red flags that I immediately recognized and conveniently chose to ignore.
A native Austinite, this dude had bartended at basically every trendy, chef-driven joint in town. I believe the common term for his profession is “mixologist.” The industry is a tight knit crew down here and even though I’m technically in the biz, I don’t work in the trenches so I’m not yet privy to the popular kids and partying. He was an ultimate insider and I was flattered that he’d picked me out of obscurity.
He had that kind of angsty, sarcastic, Morrisey-meets-Holden Caufield, sad boy thing about him. I’ve seen this quality in creative types before and am ashamed to say, it’s indeed a type that I go for. I also think I might have a thing for dudes with substance abuse problems – God help me – but more on that in a minute.
We had a lot to say to each other. He was two years my senior and in a band and seemed well read and nicely cultured. All of his tastes checked out. He was also extremely good looking. He was only 5’7, but he had kind of an Old Hollywood-esque quality to his face - kinda Clooney, kinda Hamm. He also had an extensive yet tasteful conglomeration of tattoos that contributed a certain badassery to his character. In short, he was everything I’d been looking for.
In my gut though, I never trusted him. He was pretty fresh out of rehab for booze (red flag #1), somewhat recently out of a two-year relationship (red flag #2!) currently crashing on his mom’s couch (red flag #3!!) and would often fall into morose, self-centered bitching episodes and just didn’t really seem to listen to anything I had to say (red flag #4!!). I found this especially odd, as we didn’t know each other that well, so you think he would be on his best behavior.
I gave him one shot in the sack and when his attitude didn’t change, I politely blew him off for being a self-centered prick in so many words. After years of being afraid to express my true feelings with guys, I was just honest. To my surprise he contacted me a week later begging for another chance.
What followed was this intense fever dream of a month where out of nowhere, I essentially had a full-fledged boyfriend. Night after night and morning after morning, we fucked like rabbits and then cuddled like two peas in a pod. His nights off were spent with me out at cool restaurants or at shows where we would take shots of Fernet between sets. Everywhere I went with him, he knew someone - it kind of felt like being with a celebrity. He introduced me to his friends and we became that awful couple at restaurants that seems to think its ok to grope each other across the table. When we weren’t together he was texting me things like “have a good day at work bb!” and “Night, boo.” He’d even make my bed after I went to work – stuffed animals lined up and everything. After months of silence, the noise was nice and I was thoroughly along for the ride. It was going well. He told me he “wasn’t like most dudes out of rehab.” He said he had a handle on things.
But, as I knew it would, everything came to a very dramatic and abrupt halt one Sunday night/Monday morning. Coked up and drunk he got into a fight with his manager at work because he’d been called out for taking shots on his shift. He called me trashed at 1 a.m. whining about it. I was pissed because I knew there was no future for us, but I also wanted him to just get somewhere to crash and then continue to drink himself into oblivion so he wouldn’t drive and potentially kill himself.
By that point in my life, I knew what it was like to love someone struggling with addiction. And I knew how painful and exhausting it was and the incessant worrying that came with it. But it was clear at this point that he didn’t really care about how I felt. He drove to my house at 3 a.m. essentially unable to walk or talk. His drunken snoring kept me up all night.
The next morning when he didn’t give what I deemed to be a sincere enough apology, I spoke my mind and admittedly let him have it. He got butthurt and after a day of silence I received a lovely text saying, “getting back w my ex. sorry I led you on.”
My perception of this guy and his issues had been grounded in realism from day one. But fact that my life had suddenly gone from neon back to grey crushed me.
After a month of having good, regular sex I refused to resign myself back to occasional use of my right hand and got on the apps. The fruits of my labors were lacking to say the least.
The first date was with an editor of a local lit mag. who I am 99% sure is a closeted homosexual. Either way, he was certainly too gay for me.
The next was with a vinyl-collecting lawyer who operated his practice out of a vintage, refurbished airstream trailer. (Cool, right?!!) He had a suspiciously hideous man ring that didn’t quite check out with me. Upon examination I saw what looked like an Illuminati symbol. When I inquired, he proudly told me that he was a Freemason. I ran. FAST.
Then, just like everyone told me he would, the mixologist contacted me again. It was right before the holidays. Evidently, things hadn’t worked out with his ex for some time and his “situation” had gone from bad to worse. He told me he was happier with me than then he’d been in a long time, blah blah. We made loose plans to meet up and talk things out and though he kept “liking” my social media posts and sent a few casual texts, he never followed up. I agonized for a few days then gave up, resigning him to the status of a fuckboy. He hit me up the night of NYE, but out of pride and dignity I ignored him even though I still missed him and would liked to have gotten laid. I guess he spent New Year’s Day in the hospital getting ten staples in his head following a slip in the shower?
I used to think he was just a huge dick with a small man attached (literally) but now, I kind of just feel bad for him.
The late, great Carrie Fisher once said, “take your broken heart, make it into art.” I try to think of this call to action when I’m at my low points.
Even after a year, I still don’t feel like I’ve totally left Chicago. The memories and voices and snowy, dirty sidewalks still feel so tangible that I find myself wondering if they ever miss me too. But I left so I could grow, start my life and come into myself creatively. Austin is the blank canvas I needed. Its barren expansiveness is overwhelming at times, but I feel like I have room to paint here.
I don’t have any grand answers on how cure loneliness, find true love when you want to, or easily let go of the past. Sometimes (often) it still feels like there is a fist around my heart.
But I do know one thing that fills my holes (way) better than any dick, and that’s feeling like I am performing my function in the world. For me, that is telling stories and being the funny fuck that I am.
I’d always known this, but it took me a whole damn year of upheaval and some latent heartbreak to get to the point where I did something about it.
I know the exchange of shared experience and its inherent drama or humor is the basis of most art that’s worthwhile.
That being said, I hope my tale made you laugh, provided something you could relate to and filled as least one of your holes – even if only for a little while.
Just knowing that you read it fills some of mine.
Torie Gehrig is writing somewhere in Texas, and she's no poet at all but she'll check it out.