My Nickname In High School Was ‘The Rapist’

After Torah Talk, I was lying in bed listening to Libera.

I started thinking about Rochelle, a cute brunette I rode the bus with for part of my senior year at Placer High School in Auburn, CA. She was a sophomore and on the gymnastics team. We did a little verbal jousting most mornings.

One Friday night, I told my Seventh-Day Adventist parents that I was going to a Bible study, and instead snuck the video camera out of my school against the explicit instructions of my teacher and joined the girl’s gymnastic’s team for a competition in Sacramento — all because I wanted to be close to Rochelle.

I videotaped the meet for later broadcast on our school’s community access channel on the local cable TV.

The thing went late. I found myself lying on a pillow. In it, I found three quarters. I started to pocket them and then stopped. Holy cow, I was almost a thief. That’s what going to public school had done to my morals.

On the ride home, I got things rowdy on the bus. Cool controlled rowdy so the adults, the coaches, wouldn’t shut things down. When I noticed them laughing, I started tickling people, and keeping an eye on their reactions and making sure I stayed within their good graces, I eventually moved my hands to Rochelle, the object of my affection. I started subtly, just three fingers rubbing her ribs over her uniform, and I watched for her reaction. She squealed, laughed, gasped for air, and pushed me away. I thought this was all good fun so I put both my hands on her and increased my intensity. She yelped and ran away. If I had stopped there, I might’ve remained ahead of the game, but I chased her down the bus and tickled her repeatedly. I put my arms around her, picked her up and jostled her up and down on my lap.

For me, this was foreplay. A promise of great things to come!

The coaches laughed. Our classmates laughed. Rochelle laughed. I laughed.

I loved touching the girl I loved, and I was grateful to do it without having to first ask her out, take her to dinner, make a move, and risk all that rejection and humiliation. I was strong now and I had created an atmosphere where she couldn’t object too strongly without looking like a spoil sport.

“You’re a lot stronger than you look,” said Rochelle midway through our battle and I figured what I was doing was OK. That it would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

I’d only had one relationship in my life (in the summers before 11th and 12th grade at Pacific Union College) and it had also started with awkward groping, tickling and tittie twisting a full year before we began kissing.

That Friday night on the bus back from Sacramento, I kept checking with the coaches and noticed they were laughing. They found me charming. I had that Australian accent.

As long as Rochelle wasn’t punching me or appealing for help from the adults, I assumed my behavior was OK.

Yet I knew that I didn’t like to be tickled by somebody stronger than me, I only liked getting flirt tickled by a girl. So, after five minutes, I quit my assault.

Rochelle looked relieved.

I wasn’t sure if she liked me more or less. I wasn’t sure what the future held for us. I felt like I had declared my intentions. It was up to her now.

I was the mighty editor of my school newspaper, the Hillmen Messenger. I did the weekly school news report on the local radio station KAHI AM 950. I was the face of our school’s cable TV channel. I was a good catch.

I got on the bus that Monday morning with trepidation. I looked at Rochelle with hope but she turned. Our friend Rob Stutzman shook his head at me and told me privately, “She doesn’t like you anymore.”

And she didn’t.

Another mutual friend — I guess he liked Rochelle as much as I did — later told me that she was going to the Senior Prom with Markey, the center on the basketball team. I skipped the damn thing and went camping with my buddy Shannon Anderson.

After the prom, my friend reported that Rochelle and Markey had “massive sex.” I believed the news and felt horrible. I couldn’t believe that that Southern California import had despoiled my ideal girl. To deal with my grief, I spread the news around school because I needed to talk about her and my deepest fears.

When the Placer High yearbook came out, my friend scribbled in green pen over the crotch area of Rochelle doing the splits on the beam.

She later wrote in my book: “Luke (Alias The Rapist): I sure hope you had a fun year spreading rumors about me! So sorry I didn’t sink low enough to be Hillgal of the Week. I guess I sort of ruined all you and Greg’s fun… I guess your right, you didn’t spread lies about me. Sure I had massive sex with Mark, you’re right, I was definitely the one that ATTACKED you on the bus back from championships! And I’ll never forget how you made me the star on cable TV! All those great tapes you took and most likely edited yourself. I am really glad had a fun time with that collection of yours (of tapes). Love your good, good friend, Rochelle.”

I was relieved that she hadn’t gotten it on with Markey. To an ordinary person, Rochelle’s remarks would’ve stung. For me, they felt good. They were a return to our verbal play. All was forgiven.

A few years later, I got religion, and in the summer of 1992, I sought out Rochelle. I found out she was teaching English in Japan. So I did these vocal exercises and then lay down on the floor so that my voice would get really deep and I talked to her on my dad’s tape recorder:

“Hi Rochelle, it’s Luke, your old bus buddy. I wanted to apologize for my behavior in high school. I was out of control. Yes, I did attack you on the bus back from the gymnastics championships. I thought it was just playful tickling but I realize now I went too far. I’m sorry.

“Also, I’m sorry for spreading rumors about you. There was no excuse for that. I feel bad about my behavior and that’s why I’m making this tape. I hope it finds you well. I got sick about 15 months ago. I’ve had to drop out of UCLA. The doctors call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Nobody knows what it really is. So I’m back in Newcastle and living with my parents and trying to figure things out. And I’m making amends to various people I’ve harmed. I’ve been humbled by life.”

I included in the tape a recording of a KAHI radio interview I’d done about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

A couple of weeks later, Rochelle replied on tape. She forgave me. She said she wasn’t any worse than a lot of other guys she knew at Placer High.

“Your voice is extremely deep. It took me a long time to adjust… From the tape of your KAHI interview, I learned much about CFS but even more about how CFS has changed your life. You’ve been given the opportunity to consider the true reasons for man’s existence and to adjust your perception of what is important in life.

“I’m glad that you went on the radio to explain your illness to people. I admit that when I first heard about CFS, I didn’t think that it was legitimate.”

She told me to call her when she got home in a few months. I did. The conversation was brief.

I had all these fantasies that she would rescue me but Rochelle had a life and it did not include me.

I have no idea what she’s doing now. I can’t get Google to tell me a damn thing, except that perhaps she lives in Chico.

I still tickle the girls I like, only I try restrict my tickling these days to strictly verbal play.

My last girlfriend threatened to punch me if I ever tickled her for real. I did not.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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