THE DAY I TURNED PIGEON-TOED Fact or fiction, Great-Aunt Esther’s secret? Is it true, Aunt Esther, that you have diabetes? I asked. Thanksgiving 1970, she wore a rose-colored gown, reminding me of a sphinx: arms plastered to her sides, erect as a bowling pin, with a trance-like gaze that dismantled me. My question bounced off her face, reverberated on the walls, ricocheted off my knuckles. The winding stairs of her lips quivered. My eyes dove to the floor, fastened themselves to the carpet. My eyelids tried to rise, mimicking storefront gates but stalled. Her silence wrapped around me, a black shawl. My feet sputtered, slanted pigeon-toe. Aunt Esther’s grandchildren gathered behind her like bricks. Their laughter pelted my skin, snickers pricking my cheeks the way fingernails do. I slunk away. 131 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE I wished I could recall the question, hem-less as a frock abandoned in a factory, suck the words back into my mouth.