“It is not unknown to me that many have been and still are of the opinion that the affairs of this world are so under the direction of Fortune and of God that man’s prudence cannot control them; in fact that man has no resource against them. For this reason, many think there is no use in sweating much over such matters, but that one might as well let Chance take control.”
-Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince
“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute, there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
-T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Chance Sowin hoped only for a new beginning.
Halloween 2001 found Chance driving the narrow streets of the development in which he’d grown up, headed home. Six weeks before, he’d hustled out the main entrance of the World Trade Center only an hour before it fell, taking all that business and life, along with Chance’s temp job at a law firm, down with it.
Chance hadn’t been sure what to do next. His father, Dennis, had suggested he come home. “Take some time,” his father had said. “Sort yourself out. All the time you need.”
Chance had been uncertain about it until he’d realized there was no longer anything keeping him in Manhattan, and familiar sounded good. Familiar sounded just about right. And so he’d packed everything he owned into a compact rental car and taken the Jersey Turnpike south, and now he pulled that car to the curb in front of his childhood home, a long, flat rancher. He squeezed the steering wheel as he took a deep breath, as if to steel himself, though for what he didn’t know, and then he got out of the car and stepped up the curb and was struck by déjà vu like sudden density goose-prickling up his neck: You’ve been here before.
Of course he had: he’d grown up here, after all, played stickball at the foot of the cul-de-sac, even tripped and busted his baby teeth on the very same curb he stepped up, but what crawled his skin was not simple familiarity. It was stronger, stranger, and it made the world seem hyper-intense, the October leaves speckling the lawn more vibrant, the afternoon light more glaring. It persisted as Chance crossed his lawn, until he saw the front door: brief space between the edge of the door and its jamb, wood splintered where the deadbolt had broken. Chance felt two simultaneous emotions collide.
First: uncanny familiarity—of infinite broken doors on infinite splintered days, over and over again—followed then, as lightning by thunder, by cold, brutal fear.