Notes from the Underground
Note: Another Sopranos related fan-fic about the popularity of indie-punk/rock/metal Christian band Crucifix its leader Giovanni Moltisanti and its massive fan base. 'Turo lives his dream when he is asked to sing "Bleeding Merciful Heart" with them.
Chapter 1—We Are Those Who Never Sleep
Being in a band is tough. It's hard work and sometimes I have to keep my members from cutting each other into pieces. If I simply talk things out amongst them we can settle our differences. Granted, our drummer, Nick takes things very seriously and he tends to sulk but at the end of the day he comes out of his "lair" and allows us into his little world. If it weren't for his smashing beats, Crucifix wouldn't have that grinding sound that has made us what we are. I admit to that, even being the lead and the collaborator of everything I do. But if I didn't make my band members feel important, we would've broken up and gone our separate ways.
Of all of my fans, I can say I'm fortunate that many of them are my nearest and dearest friends. The one I hear the most from is my surrogate brother, Arturo Dante. Although he's not related by blood, he's the closest thing I have to a brother other than my guitarist, Trey. Since I hadn't seen him for such a long time and his birthday was close, I thought I would treat him with a special gift. He would be given a VIP ticket to one of our concerts. I had been meaning to do this for such a long time but had never found the means to carry forth with my plans. With a little opening in my schedule, I knew I had the time I required and I went right to work. I could hardly wait to see 'Turo again and hoped I wouldn't be too tired to reconnect with him. I wondered if he had changed since I had last seen him. All the questions in my mind, I knew, would be answered one second at a time upon our reunion.
As 'Crucifix' we hardly ever sleep, but we do our best to get our 8 hours. Having a booked schedule keeps us on our feet most of the day. It can be harsh. I still miss dad being out on the road so much but he supports me and I know Big Sis and Lil' Sis do as well. I'm hoping he's able to come out to this concert since it's close to his neighborhood. Knowing him though, I might not recognize him. Even if he's there in spirit, it means the world to me because I know he supports me no matter what and he loves me unconditionally for it.
Chapter 2—Devilishly Handsome
It was the night of the Crucifix concert and I had already started working up a sweat. We brought Gatorade and water to cool ourselves off on stage as well as heavy-duty warehouse fans (that oscillated) to keep everyone from sweating too much in the sultry summer sun. The early fans began filing in to take their seats and soon the rest of the devout followers of Crucifix found their spots in the low hills in the field to lie on their blankets and eat their dinners while listening to us.
I didn't see 'Turo until the sun began to set and the show began to take off. I could see his black Cadillac rolling in and soon, out stepped 'Turo in a very snazzy looking suit. Ashley was on his arm in a Dolche Gabana dress, a silken ivory shawl wrapped around her china-white shoulders. Her fiery hair danced in the artificial wind of the floor fans and even I was struck dumb momentarily. At that moment, I played a bit of an embellishment and no one else in the band seemed to notice.
I introduced Arturo later on during the break to people who were sticking around to ask us questions and get our honest responses. I had been signing autographs like a psycho and Arturo was by my side the whole time.
"Dude, I was not expecting this…I gotta tell you, bro this is the best birthday present EVER and you gotta come with afterwards. The after party is going to be choiiiiice.", 'Turo said.
"I don't know if he can do that though. Think about it 'Turo baby.", Ashley answered sadly.
"I suppose I should be happy that you're letting me sing the lead to Bleeding Merciful Heart as soon as the break's over.", Arturo confessed, hugging me again. Ashley snapped a spontaneous photo with her digital camera.
"Hey, Ash ! Get me with the band !", Turo called, gesturing Ashley to photograph him with my band members. I couldn't help but laugh at my friend, but oddly I was unnerved by his looks. It's not to say that I don't mind seeing someone who is sharply dressed but everyone else in the audience was some average shmoe with mucky-muck clothes, just like me. I wasn't about to make any judgments, but my mind soon changed when Turo leaned close to my ear as we took a final photo together.
"Listen, if you ever need anything, and I mean anything, here's my card. That has my private number. If you guys are ever in dire straights, we can fish you out of that abyss. And believe me, I know how to pull strings.", Arty said, lowering his sunglasses to reveal his magnetic violet eyes to me. There was something almost supernatural about his eyes. Even if the claim made was so terribly earth-shattering that one had to be an absolute idiot to believe it, there was absolutely no way I could turn down his offer. I thought of my girlfriend, Gail, who wanted to get married by the end of the tour. Of course, we thought of settling down as soon as we took a sabbatical.
Chapter 3—With a Voice like Sinatra
I had no idea what to expect when 'Turo belted out Bleeding Merciful Heart with me. I almost suspected he would be a tone-deaf guy with a great sense of rhythm and a suave way with his movements, but I was incorrect to judge. 'Turo had the sound, the moves and the rhythm. I was almost dumbfounded as to where he received his talent from but I had to go with the flow, being a professional. The song, as soon as we were done with it, received a rave chant from the audience.
"I tell ya, bro…every night, I'm singing Crucifix karaoke unless I'm listening to more secular bands.", he confessed. I wasn't shocked that Arturo enjoyed "secular" music because to be honest, I did too, and that was how Crucifix got its start, honestly. I was looking for a raw, metal, modern sound that would draw listeners in but leave them asking questions about Jesus. And at every concert, we accepted believers and we were getting to that point in our program. I felt a little uneasy with Arturo mouthing the words to the confession. But I knew if he wanted to be cleansed…who was I to deny him ?
I had never seen Arturo cry before and I wasn't certain of why he was weeping so profusely, but tears were a common sight at my concerts during "fellowship" to come to repent. I didn't know what Arturo was repenting for and would never know because he was conversing with the Man Upstairs. To be honest, I didn't really want to be aware of what he had done. Something inside me said,
"He has done many unforgivable deeds.", while my conscious said,
"What right do you have to judge him ? After all, wasn't it Christ himself that said, 'You proclaim your neighbor has a speck of dust in his eye and you have a plank in your own' ?". I watched him on stage, his whole frame shivering and his face covered in bitter tears. I could sense his deep torment and pain. But something hit me at that moment, which was like a release. I felt peace. It was indescribable, even sweeter than the kisses from my beloved Gail. When 'Turo and the others had been redeemed, they joined us all together for our final song, We Shall Meet Again (On That Golden Shore). An otherworldly chill overcame me when everyone left and Arturo sat by my side. Ever faithful, Angie sat next to him.
"It was an astonishing concert, Giovanni. We bought your latest CD and were wondering if you could sign it.", she said, holding out the CD and giving it to me. Popping the top off of a Sharpie, I wrote my wishes for them and snapped the top back on, closed the CD case and handed it back to her. She held it to her heart and sighed blissfully. Arturo whispered something into her ear that made her blush profusely and she kissed him on the cheek. I couldn't help but laugh. It was just like old times, except we weren't on the beach with Uncle Chrissy. It made me long for those days again, and if I ever had the chance I would take Gail there and propose to her. But right now, tours made it practically impossible to do anything else but sing and inspire; which actually, wasn't a bad gig after all.
Chapter 4—If You Ever Backslide…
It seemed that Artie had forgotten about the "party" he had spoken about earlier. I didn't want to seem rude to him but we really had to pack up the Crucifix tour bus and get a move on.
"Hey, I am totally cool with that. By all means, make your next stop. Don't let Angie and I hold you back.", 'Turo joked, slapping me on the back, hard. I was nearly astonished at how much strength he had gotten since I last saw him. He had changed so much since I knew him as a kid but deep down I could see, much like his dad (and as much as he didn't want to admit it) he was a marshmallow. He would only show that soft side to his closest friends and of course, to his girlfriend.
Before Artie and Ashley left, I offered him a gift to remember the experience he had. "This is something I have been wanting you to have for a long time, Artie.", I said, handing him my old, beaten up, dog-eared Bible.
"But, Geo, this is yours. I couldn't possibly…", Arturo said, looking more guilty than a toddler who had been caught stealing a stash of chocolate chip cookies from a cookie jar.
"I need a newer one, and I thought this one would come in handy, you know, in case you backslide.", I said, patting him on the back. Unexpectedly, he hugged me, quite fervently. His grip was almost bone-crushing and it took me a while to regain my breath.
"Thank you. I won't forget this. I hope that you can take that sabbatical soon. We need to get together more often, bro.", Arturo said as he clapped my shoulder and pivoted on his foot to leave. As elegant and refined as ever, he and Ashley made their exit, looking very much like Hollywood stars. Not a bone in me envied him, however. I wasn't sure of what he did but I knew I didn't want to take any deals with him. I was certain he'd understand because, after all, we were surrogate brothers and our love of music, faith and common interest bound us.
Since that night, I held onto the photographs I had taken from the concert. They were all held up by pushpins in a cardboard frame. Everything memorable or noteworthy was tacked up there just in case I forgot who I was or where I had come from. After smiling at all the pictures and newspaper clippings, I checked my email as usual on my laptop. There was an email from Artie.
"Ciao, Gio. I just wanted to drop a note and thank you again for the most spectacular birthday…ever. Ashley and I had the best times of our lives, and we can only hope that you'll be coming to Uncle Chrissy's in the summer. Let us know when your hiatus is so we can collaborate a date. I'll get back to you on that. Only recently, I have been taking bible studies with Ashley and have been finding them quite rewarding. I owe you for that. Your dog-eared Good Book is keeping me company, and I appreciate your insight in letting me keep it. Until we meet again, I wish you and Gail the best of all things and I do hope I hear wedding bells sometime soon. By the way, when you do get married, can I be your best man ? 'Turo."
I chuckled at the email and felt Gail's silken fingers massaging my neck.
"He mentioned wedding bells again didn't he ?', she questioned, almost eerily.
"Yes, and I swear you're psychic, my dear.", I said, as I held her arm and gently placed her hand over my heart and sighed. I quickly answered his email, got up, kissed my girlfriend goodnight and prepared for another jaunt out on the open road. I couldn't wait for another vacation or for the time I would marry the woman of my dreams and somehow I knew that without the boldness from Arturo that had rubbed off on me, I would've never had the gumption to ask her to be mine.