Modest Oracle

divine providence




(theology) the sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people’s lives and throughout history.


A speculative list (and not to call myself a modern-age Nostradamus) of the events to come in the year 2019 of our Common Era:

1. We will watch the Industrial National Bank fall into ruin and rise once again. What better icon for the city than its beloved Superman Building? What better metaphor for the reconstruction of Providence’s identity than the resurrection of a once slain icon?

2. The fires on Atwells Avenue increase by 14%. No one will lay blame on the geriatric remnants of organized crime, sipping cappuccinos by Pastiche, up on Federal Hill, but the aura of their presence will remain. What used to be the legendary Coin-O-Matic front will reassemble its ashes into a hookah lounge tucked away between the stale odor of organized crime, of garlic and basil and freshly baked cannoli.

3. The Fleur-de-Lys building—you know the one, that gold trimmed black sheep of Thomas Street—will transfer into the hands of another Providence Art Club member. She will line the walls of its stark red interior with generations of modern impressionist watercolors. They will bleed through printer paper she uses to sample her color schemes, and drip down to the stain the hardwood floors. The stains will be almost entirely purple.

4. Small Point Café will introduce a new seasonal flavor—the Honey Rose Latte.

5. Waterfire will begin to make use of Providence’s pollution problem to create installation art pieces, featuring floating grease fires on the river’s surface.

6. The RISD Museum will acquire a collection of Renee Magritte’s work. “Son of Man” will only be on display less than 24 hours before it becomes vandalized with an ominously hovering apple core.

7. A somewhat seedy Italian restaurant will open up on the first floor of the Superman building.

8. Providence’s notoriously inconsistent weather will begin to align with a weekly schedule—Mondays and Tuesdays will bring snow, Wednesdays the temperature will rise to an average of 60 degrees, Thursdays will bring sleet, Fridays the clouds will uniformly cover the sky and bring no feeling of warmth nor chill, Saturdays will be reserved for blizzards and Sundays will offer a Wednesday-inspired reprieve.

9. A passerby will slip on the rough cobblestone as they walk down Benefit Street. Their phone will fly out of their Canada Goose jacket’s pocket and crack on the pavement. It will be a college student. Their parents will pay for a new screen.

10. The Athenaeum will reveal that the mummified body of H.P. Lovecraft is, in fact, hidden beneath their basement Rhode-Island section, not rotting away beneath the cemetery grass.

11. India Point Park will host yet another yoga event. The dress code is simple—black tie, white sneakers. How else can we achieve an enlightened state if not post pressed green juice and contemplating the meaning of our existence, stretched out in the warrior pose with the slit of a red dress ruffling in the wind?

12. The Arcade will finally expand to accommodate their collection of vintage arcade games—among these, the original Pac-Man, as well as Asteroids. Available to be played at all times of the week, only a quarter per round! How much are you willing to pay for a sip of nostalgia?

13. The countless caricatures and wall-length street art portraits will begin to rise to the level of human sentience. The paint will grow into the tactile, the eyes will roam as the city’s eternal acrylic guardians, their mouths whispering into the streets, threats of knowledge from seeing too much. We avoid the colored brick to further ourselves from our already estranged watchers.

14. The church clock towers will turn to goo, a regular Dali masterpiece demonstrating the true passage of time. To calculate minutes, we’ll go by the sundial left in the notch of Cthulhu’s shadowy limbs.

It isn’t hard to detail the cohesive nature of the city, to use its past to predict its future. Divinity in the predetermined passage of time, the fortuitous glance of the Masonic eye from the Providence Lodge, all paths lead to one. The Butterfly Effect seems to encompass the city, it starts with a blink and it ends with a fire. A simple nod made a second too late, enough to offend, leads to boarded up windows up on Federal Hill’s outskirts. A piece of red brick chipped off the side of a vacant building thrown down to the streets punctures the tires of a car that then never quite makes it to the Providence Art Club’s Gala.

We call it Providence for a reason, do we not?


Artwork by Anna Ess

Edited by Isabel Astrachan