The summer before I entered Junior High I received a Timex watch for my birthday. It wasn’t one of the really cool digital ones but it was a Timex. This was back when the famous Timex commercials were airing and they featured such things as an elephant eating a Timex watch, digesting it, crapping it out and a promoter picking it up, listening to it and proclaiming “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!” Okay maybe my memory of that commercial isn’t quite accurate but I remember just about everything else about my seventh grade year quite clearly.

Before school we’d all have to wait outside until the bell rang and they opened the school doors. As it got colder they would open the outer doors and let us wait in the entryway between the outer and inner doors. One morning around this time of year it was quite cold and I’d gotten to school early so I was waiting between the two sets of doors. My friends weren’t there for some reason so I was waiting by myself. My junior high school was on the edge of my town but was very near a “black town” as my parents put it. The kids from that “black town” were in my school district so my junior high was pretty racially integrated. Which is why it wasn’t surprising for me to find myself in a crowd of black and white students crowding into the entryway to keep warm.

I was standing against the wall and I remember looking up and seeing that some of the students had cleared away from me and I saw two black guys approach me. I felt a strange sense of disconnect happen inside as I watched them walk up to me. One was taller than the other and had facial hair. The shorter one was still a good 6 inches taller than me. They both seemed so much older and more grown up than me. I later found out that the shorter guy was named Tony and for some reason I never found out the taller guys’ name. Tall Guy walked up to me and grabbed me by the jacket and Tony pressed right up against me. His breath stank. He said in a low voice “I want your watch. If you don’t give it to me he’s going to beat the shit out of you.”

I looked from one to the other and my first thought was that this was a joke. They weren’t serious and any moment they would smile and start laughing at how scared I was. And I was scared. Terrified. I had never been in a serious fight before and I really thought these two could hurt me if they wanted to.

“Sure. It’s yours.” I held up my wrist and Tony began to remove my watch, staring into my eyes the whole time. He never said another word as he took my watch off, put it into his jacket pocket and then he and Tall Guy walked outside. When were they going to start laughing and give me back my watch?

For some reason I’ll never understand I followed them outside. I really think I was expecting them to hand back my watch. As I got outside I realized that I’d walked into a group of black students. I guess Tony and Tall Guy had told them what they’d done or maybe they’d seen it. Either way they seemed offended that I’d come outside and one of them pushed me. I don’t even know if it was a girl or boy who pushed me first. Then someone else pushed me. Then someone else. Then someone else.

I’m not sure what happened inside me that day. I looked around me at the group of angry black kids. I could still feel the place on my wrist where my watch should be but wasn’t. I felt wrong somehow.

I honestly don’t know how long I was outside being pushed around. It seemed like an hour but it was probably less than a minute. One of the teachers either saw what had happened or was told what had happened and she came outside and stopped the pushing. She took me in while holding my hand. I felt like I was six years old. I was ashamed at what had happened. Some of my friends were there and they were asking me if my watch was really stolen and why I didn’t kick those two guys’ asses. I felt stupid and embarrassed.

The teacher asked me what happened and I told her that my watch had been stolen by two black guys. She asked me to describe the watch and asked me if I was hurt. I wasn’t hurt I told her. I was okay. She smiled and sent me off to class.

An hour later I was summoned to the principal’s office. I had never been to the principal’s office before so I knew it must have something to do with this morning. I walked in terrified that I was in trouble somehow. When I entered his office I saw the principal, Tony and Tall Guy sitting down and the principal asked me to sit down also. My principal was black also and he watched me closely as I sat down. Tony and Tall Guy didn’t look at me at all. The principal looked at me and asked me if my watch had been stolen that morning. “Yes” I replied. He then asked me “Are these two the ones who took your watch?”

I knew the principal knew. I’m not sure why he even asked me. I remembered my mom telling me once how black people stuck together and weren’t afraid to get revenge on someone. I remembered the group of people pushing me after Tony and Tall Guy stole my watch. I told the principal that I couldn’t see who took my watch because of the crowd but I was sure it wasn’t these two.

Tony smiled at me. I had this weird idea that he wanted to be my friend and part of me wanted to be his friend so nothing like this could ever happen again. I was scared of him and his power. And I also hated him. I hated him for taking my watch. I hated him for being the one to speak to me while Tall Guy stood there. I hated him for being black. I hated Tall Guy for being black. I hated the group who pushed me for being black. And I hated black people for being thieves and for being violent to me when I’d never done anything to them.