Beneath Sag Harbor
By Craig Alfano
Four quick pops, then five, followed by splashes of bright purple and red. Michael and Nico stood next to each other wide eyed. As more of the aristocrats made their way to the railing to see the display, the two boys’ views became obstructed; they gave their nonverbal cue along with a slight moan to be picked up.
After the finale, the boys remained entranced, staring at the night sky across the harbor still not convinced the show was over. As the last crackle was heard, the applause came to an abrupt halt and Michael and Nico realized it was now past their bedtime. Staci and I gave each other the look that meant, “Abort Mission! Get out and get out now!” We grabbed our kids and high tailed it to the stairwell shouting out, “Excuse me, I’m sorry” as we bumped into every person we tried to maneuver around. Like a full back in a football game, I usually went first when we executed our escape missions, using my wider frame to clear the way for Staci who had Nico biting her neck as he screeched “I wanna go home! Now!!”
When we arrived to the exit, I gripped Michael tightly as I cut across the short corner of the catwalk. Blockading the entrance to the dock was a woman in a red dress, who appeared to be intoxicated. She was putting shoes on her equally intoxicated husband, ignoring the fact that Michael and I were trying to disembark. As I completed a long step over the gap in the catwalk, I took a deep breath of relief knowing the first part of the operation was complete. I spent a couple of seconds standing still to rest, allowing the warm evening breeze to hit my face.
Before taking my next step, I heard what I thought was a faint scream and then a slight splash. As I turned to peak behind me I still saw the lady in the red dress giggling as she was now working on her husband’s second shoe. A second after that, a much louder scream, realizing that it was coming from Staci. Then…
My heart beats fast as I peak over to my left and see Nico calmly enjoying his afternoon nap. I hear Michael downstairs watching Curious George. I’m comforted knowing they are both safe and alive and it slows down.
In the second I stood there, the longest second of my life, I must have processed a thousand scenarios in my head. What was my life going to be like without Nico? My heart hurt as I felt him gone forever. There was no way he could have survived the fifteen-foot drop from the dock into the dark ocean. God, why couldn’t I hear him!?!
“Take my son’s hand! Please! Now!”
The lady dressed in a blue evening gown, looked at me as if I was crazy. Besides the drunk couple trying to get their shoes on, there was no one there. No one had seen or heard them fall.
I viciously grabbed her left hand and joined it with both of Michael’s hands. Without knowing how else to respond, she gripped his hands tightly. I took a step forward, jumped off, and crashed into the boat, my right arm dragging against the wooden dock as I descended feeling clumps of skin scrape off my arm.
My head came back out of the water and there she was, helplessly hanging onto the pillar with her left arm and our two-year-old son with her right. Nico was now crying. The sound of him crying and seeing him latched onto Staci’s neck lifted off what felt like a 500-pound weight on my heart. Crying meant he was not dead. If there were lacerations, broken bones, I could deal with those later.
“Craig, I can’t hold on! Take him!”
I swam over putting my forehead against hers. I tried to get her to focus and stop screaming. “Hang in there. It will be okay.”
I felt foolish. I typically used those words to make her feel better when she had one of those crazy days at work and felt guilty for not making it home in time to see the kids before they fell asleep for the night.