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If This Gets Out
Author: Sophie Gonzales

 


TO CAMERON STEINERT AND SHAYE DIETRICH

 

 

ONE

 

 

RUBEN


Almost plummeting to my death before a stadium full of screaming people is a warning sign, in an endless parade of warning signs lately, that I need more sleep.

We’re performing the last concert for the American leg of our Months by Years tour when it happens. I’m about fifteen feet above the stage, on a raised platform illuminated to look like a city skyline. It’s time to gracefully lower ourselves to sit on the edge to croon the start of our last song, “His, Yours, Ours,” but instead of gracefully lowering myself, I overshoot my step, overcorrect, then start lurching over the edge.

Before I can lean too far into thin air, a hand clasps my shoulder and steadies me. Zach Knight, one of the other three members of Saturday. His hazel eyes widen the tiniest bit, but otherwise he acts unruffled. Nothing to see here.

I don’t have the luxury of pausing to acknowledge or thank him, because stage smoke—intended to represent either clouds or city pollution, I never did figure it out—is engulfing us, and the opening chords of the song have started. Zach keeps his hand on my shoulder while he sings, as though it was all part of the choreography, and I lean into my off-balance pose, totally collected. At least, outwardly.

After twenty-seven and a half consecutive shows this year alone, this isn’t exactly the first time one of us has had to smoothly cover up a trip or choreo mistake. It is the first time one of those mistakes almost caused me to plunge fifteen feet onto solid ground, though, and my heart’s probably never pounded quite this hard, but we’re a show.

To be clear: we aren’t giving a show: we are the show. And the show doesn’t take two minutes to compose itself after almost breaking its neck.

The show is suave, and in control, and it meant to do that.

When Zach’s lines are over, he gives my shoulder a quick squeeze—the only acknowledgment the whole ordeal is likely to get for now—then drops his hand while Jon Braxton chimes in for his verse. Jon always has the most solo parts. I guess that’s what you get when your dad also happens to be the manager of your band. We don’t really have a leader, but if we did, it would be Jon. When we have eyes on us, anyway.

By the time Jon’s finished and it’s my turn to sing the song’s bridge, my breathing’s more or less steady again. Not that it matters—every song, without fail, I get given the simplest solos without a high note in sight. Frankly, I could pull them off with a sock stuffed in my mouth. They don’t care that I have the highest range out of all four of us. For reasons they’ll never care to explain to me, they prefer me bland. “They” being our management team and, to a lesser extent, our record label—Chorus Management and Galactic Records.

And god forbid I push against those cramped boundaries with a vocal run or tempo change. We’re meant to sound just like we do on the master recording. Planned, packaged, and neatly presented.

Still, inhibited vocals or not, the crowd seems to explode with energy when I sing—the blinding camera flashes that dot the vast blanket of the crowd become frenzied, the technicolor glowsticks are waved with more abandon, and the hundreds of MARRY ME, RUBEN MONTEZ posters are raised up higher. It’s only my perception, I’m sure, but when I’m singing solo, everything locks into place. It’s just me and the crowd, vibrating at exactly the same frequency.

Right now, I could stand here forever, singing the same, safe line on repeat, hearing the same screams, seeing the same signs, and forever would feel like a moment.

Then Angel Phan takes the song’s pre-chorus line in his husky, breathy tone, the backing music drops to a whisper, and the stage is plunged into darkness. Like we’ve done dozens of times before, we get up in unison and stand on our assigned glow-in-the-dark X’s as the skyline platform is lowered back down to the stage. As soon as I step off and my feet are back on level ground, I relax.

It’s short-lived. Suddenly, laser lights rip through the darkness as the chorus instrumental, with its upbeat tempo change, booms. They illuminate us and the audience in crisscrossing lines of fluorescent green and blue, and we launch into the chorus half-dazzled. In a cruel joke to us, this final song has the most demanding hip-hop-inspired choreo of the night, which we’re expected to nail while also holding a four-part harmony. I was in shape to begin with, pre-tour, and it still took me two weeks of singing on the treadmill last year to get my lung capacity up enough to pull this one off.

We make it look easy, though. We know each other to our bones. Even though I’m not looking at them, I know what they’re all doing.

Zach’s got his serious-face on—even after all these years he gets nervous during the more intense choreo—and shifts straight into concentration mode.

Jon’s closing his eyes for half the chorus—his dad’s always lecturing him for that, but Jon can’t help getting lost in the emotion of everything.

As for Angel, I’d bet anything I own he’s eye-fucking the audience, adding in little pelvic-pop movements and half-kicks at the end of his steps, even though he’s not allowed to. Our choreographer, Valeria, is constantly calling him out in our post-show notes meetings for that. “You’re standing out too much,” she says. But we all know the real problem is that our management team has spent two years branding him as the virginal, innocent guy girls would want to take home to their parents, when really he’s anything but.

After the chorus, we move into our next positions, and I catch a glimpse of Zach. His chestnut-brown hair is plastered to his forehead with sweat. They have me and Zach both in jackets, a bomber for me and leather for him. Let me tell you, with the lights bearing down on us and the smoke clogging the air and the body heat from the audience packed into the enclosed stadium, it’s over a hundred degrees up here at the best of times. It’s a miracle our onstage mishaps haven’t included heatstroke yet.

Zach catches my gaze and shoots me a brief smile before turning back to the audience. I realize I’m staring, and I quickly tear my eyes away. In my defense, our hair and makeup artist, Penny, a curvy woman in her mid-twenties, has him growing his hair out for this tour, and it’s the kind of length that’s made to scream sex when it’s slick with sweat. I’m only noticing what most of the audience has already noticed. In fact, the only one who doesn’t seem to notice how good Zach looks is Zach.

I let my mind go blank and allow the music to sweep me into autopilot, spinning and stepping and jumping in a dance my body knows by heart. The song finishes, the lights sign off in a blaze of orange and yellow, and we freeze, panting, as the crowd leaps to their feet. Zach takes the chance to push his damp hair off his forehead, tipping his head back as he does so to expose his throat.

Shit. I’m staring again.

I force myself to focus on Jon making his way center stage, where he directs the crowd to thank the musicians, and the security team, and the sound and lighting team. Then it’s Thank you so much, Orlando, we’ve been Saturday, good night! and we’re waving, and the cheering is so loud it drowns itself out into near silence, and we’re jogging backstage.

And that’s it. The American leg of the Months by Years tour is done, just like that.

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