In 1963, when I was ten years old, my family moved to Switzerland. My friends and I loved to keep up with the latest US trends. We took to hanging out at the school’s wood working shop where we spent countless hours perfecting homemade skateboards.
I loved the shop for many reasons – not the least of which was that it was a refuge from Mrs. Elderfield. But I also loved the power tools. I liked the rip of the saws and the torque of the drills. Even the smell of the sawdust gave me a thrill.
My friends and I took to scheduling weekend time there as well. Mr. Adams, our Californian shop teacher, was happy to oblige. One day as we were finishing up, Mr. Adams asked if I could stay behind. He said he had an idea that would polish up my nearly completed board. As soon as my friends left, he grabbed me and started tearing off my clothes. His hands were all over me and I began to cry. When he worked his way into my pants, I felt my stomach rise and I threw up. The burst of vomit startled him into letting me loose for an instant. It was long enough for me to break away and run outside.
When I got home, I ran to my room and lay crying on my bed. My brother came in and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t have the words to explain it. All I knew was that Mr. Adams had fondled me, kissed me and groped me in a way that only aligned with ‘affection’ in my young mind. But I also knew that what I felt was so ugly and disturbing it had caused me to retch. I told my brother that Mr. Adams had ‘hugged me’ and I’d thrown up. I recalled an expression I had heard but never understood. I asked my brother if he thought I might be ‘lovesick’. I never went back to shop and even now the smell of sawdust makes me sick.