Natalie’s soon-to-be husband rests beneath a linden tree. Looking up, he makes out the face of his beloved among the twigs and leaves and, in his joy, resolves to propose. He goes to Natalie, who sees the question coming and waits for it—but the question never comes. Struck with fear, the suitor hesitates, and Natalie voices her concern—does he want this? Mulling the question over, the young man recalls internally the two’s ups and down and finally puts the issue to rest by proposing. Subsequently, the two receive Natalie’s mother’s blessing, thereby sealing the deal. After a period of time, Natalie and her husband turn cold toward each other. Both remember how they felt previously, on their wedding day and earlier, when they believed truly that an immutable force united and kept them. Now, for the first time, Natalie’s husband sees his wife’s faults—her garland, or innocence, has fallen away—and Natalie her husband’s.
Jumping ahead in time, the characters now adjusted to married life, Natalie’s husband rushes home at the news that his wife, five days past her due date, just might be in labor. He storms into the house, leads Natalie down the stairs, into the car already packed, and the two make their way to the hospital. From the driver’s seat, the doting father-to-be notices his wife’s tousled hair, her face beaded with sweat, and, becoming increasingly agitated, recalls the moment his wife broke the news of her pregnancy. In just a few hours, the two become parents of a little girl, and from that moment onward, Natalie’s husband comes home from work to find a family waiting for him.
Skipping ahead once more, the child perhaps a few years old, relations have again soured. There is a confrontation wherein Natalie’s husband, in a brusque manner, turns away from his wife after speaking a few ill-advised words—the very same words he was told by a previous lover. Natalie’s husband regrets immediately the action and, turning to apologize, finds his wife has fled their home. He chases her into the street. Cars swerve around the couple as words fly; nearby friends enter the scene and try to calm the situation. Natalie, emotionally crushed, takes her daughter from her husband’s hands and vows to leave. Still in the street, Natalie’s husband reaches out for his wife and the two tumble. Natalie gets up first and notices her husband’s pleading look. A moment ago, she swore she’d lost him, she’d made up her mind to leave—but seeing his outstretched hand touching her arm, she has second thoughts.
Sarah’s husband comes home late, as he often does, to find his wife presumably asleep in bed. He sits beside her, watches the breeze play through her hair and recalls his old feelings for her. He admonishes himself for being unfaithful—the charming, successful man is brought low by his self-appraisal—and, so it seems, resolves earnestly to change the course of his life.
Sarah, unsurprisingly, is feigning sleep during her husband’s (either real or rote) internal confession. She’s been waiting up, as she often does, and considers the routine that follows these late-night homecomings. The next morning, her husband will dress in good spirits, shrugging off questions of his long work hours. If Sarah presses the issue or begins to cry, her husband will, in an exasperated manner, defend himself and his innocence, incensed that his wife would accuse him of infidelity.
The following evening, Sarah’s repentant husband comes home straight from work to find the house a mess and himself cuckolded. It seems the goal of Sarah’s actions were to send up a signal flare, to show her husband the tenuous state of their marriage in order to save it. Her husband, however, is unable to accept his wife’s actions and dissolves ruthlessly all remaining bonds between them. He takes their son, entrusting the child to his parents or relatives, packs his belongings and leaves. Once more, Sarah acts on her feelings of injustice and tears apart their home. Far away, Sarah’s husband echoes his wife’s lament. He longs for her and his child and finds himself, again, penitential. Accepting his marriage as failed, he conceives of a way forward.
released May 22, 2012
The Chairman Dances
Mike Giuliana- drum kit, tambourine, sleigh bells, vocals
Ben Rosen- bass guitar, double bass, organ
Dan Wisniewski- lead electric guitar
Eric Krewson- vocals, rhythm electric guitar, acoustic guitar, trumpet, piano, glockenspiel, tambourine
Christina Blomberg- tenor saxophone
Jin-Huon Jou- violin
Luxian Li- cello
Charlotte Rosen- vocals
Recorded live by Kyle Pulley at The Headroom, Philadelphia, December 3-4, 2011 / Guest musicians recorded at home by the band / Mixed by Joe Reinhart at The Headroom / Mastered by Ryan Schwabe at The Maniac Mansion, Philadelphia
Natalie, I see your face before me, bright, beneath the linden tree. Natalie, your hair of twigs and leaves, a golden ring I will bring to thee.
Track Name: A Promise [Natalie's Husband As Suitor]
I saw her on the step, leaning forward, the expectation in her eye for what I would say. We had talked on and on, it’d grown late. My tongue froze in place. She asked—did I want this? I saw her on the step, but what was she asking? Was it what I was hoping and feared for so long? It shone in my eyes that day, was written all over my face—did I want this? First would go our friends, and then our closer friends. No, we made our list of demands ahead of time. But alone, and in the heat of the day, all that came then flew away—we wanted this. And if I loved her, would she stay? Was it worth all that heartache? Would it end the sleepless nights, would it calm the crazed and jealous fights? Your brother calls me friend, your sister throws her hands around my neck. And your mother calls me to the table. She gives us her blessing.
Track Name: A Voice In The Night [Natalie's Husband]
The voice came to you and it dragged you up and out of your sleep; led you down the stairs and out the door; the moon left its light at your feet. The notes were calm and clear. Your eyes were dewy. You were asking, what could the stars sewn in the sky tonight mean for us? It came to me much the same. I heard it first on our wedding day, as the children blushed and mothers wept (our fathers, bored, were looking away): the voice was plain and loud, it split this faithless man right down the center. But the stars sewn in the sky that night showed us something better. The voice came to you and it dragged you up and out of your sleep. But it left you, then it left us both, your garland lay unstrung at your feet. Oh, the talk is sharp and cruel. The worst of us is all we show now, as we gaze, dewy-eyed, at those grievous clouds.
Track Name: A Family Waiting [Natalie's Husband]
I came home to find you head in your hands, hands on the table, and your belly showing from under your shirt. I came, I ran for blocks, as soon as I heard, as soon as I knew you weren’t OK—you’re five days late. I led you down, down each stair. Your palms were sweaty as mine. But I stole a smile then. We spoke of all our dearest dreams—oh, Natalie, soon we’ll be something different. The car was packed. We hit the road; we’d meet your parents there. I choked down each breath like a drowning man; a breeze was blowing through your tousled hair. Not long ago, I found you home: you’d changed, you were staring at the floor. I had something to give. You had so much more. I came home to find two girls waiting, a family waiting.
Track Name: Thought I'd Lost You [Natalie]
You brushed my hands aside. I straightened up and walked out. I ran on down the hall and flew right into traffic. The cars swerved as they fled; I reeled, as I had lost you. I fell down in the street. Our friends, they circled around us as I ripped my daughter from you and we left. I would find something different. For myself, and all I failed to do, I will tear our life in two. You swore it wasn’t me. Words left from some old lover, they stuck under your tongue and spurned the love I offered. The cars swerved as they fled; I reeled—I thought I’d lost you. We fell down in the street.
And you looked up at me. You held on to me.
Track Name: Penitent [Sarah's Husband - Bedside]
Her flaxen hair sways in the breeze. Old feelings rise up, take hold of me—they swept me off my feet. You found all that was good in my heart. (I’d been looking for years, always coming up short.) You swept me off, you swept me off my feet. Right out of that lonely house and into the street. But you know where I’ve been tonight. I know you know. You know it all. I bury my face in your summer dress. Could I love you any less than this? The old feelings rise in my chest. Old feelings rise in me.
Track Name: Housekeeping [Sarah - Bedside]
I wait each night, curled up in our bed. I watch for the porch light to change and listen for your step. I feign sleep, feel you run your cool hand across my brow. My arms turn to goose flesh when you say her name out loud. In the morning, you’ll be smiling, singing softly as you dress. And you’ll leave for work, pat me on the head, say there’s nothing to confess. All through the day, we step out of your way. Men bow at your right and left, nod at every cruel word you say. And the smiles you get, from those little girls who don’t know quite yet just what’s coming to them. In the morning, you’ll be laughing: another notch in the old belt. You see me crying, throw your hands up in the air, you say you wouldn’t dare. For the first time in months, you came right home, the sun still out. You shake your head and groan, this place is such a mess. You storm in to catch us, our clothes strewn around the room. There’s always something to confess.
Track Name: Sarah [Sarah's Husband]
Words hung heavy on your heart, like that stone round your neck, when you were thrown in, cast out into the crowd. The face you showed, the truth you told hit home, but too late. And a quiet man (this one), turns his face and shuts his eyes. He shuts them tight. The baying wolves on your trail, and the executioner’s song, it ripped the autumn air. You ran right home one last time; you’d show them all. A child is asleep and he’s waiting for his mother. (A child asleep is the sweetest sight of all.) A child is asleep and the footsteps gingerly pass then stop: the door swings open, the sheets stir; the words don’t come, but thoughts of everyone. Now a hand comes across and stops you—it is mine. Lover, you made the choice.
Track Name: Interstate [Sarah]
I was wringing my hands. You were spinning your lies. The car was packed, the closets checked over twice. This life you would give up for a moment of rest, for some time to be among friends with less. You were running from everyone that day you came to burden my ring finger and tack on your last name. But you held me so tightly for a year or more. Say you’ll come back to me strong as before. I tear through the albums; the wall’s a sheet of white. And in the scattered glass and the emptied drawers all things are made right. Our blessed temples are burning. Our blessed bodies cry out as the car pulls away and dissolves on the road bending south.
Track Name: Nowhere To Be [Sarah's Husband]
I woke up in a sweat, and paced there in the dark—a family stitched together, a family falls apart. And in an empty room, I thought I saw you. It’s just the nighttime’s tricks. I hear their laughter, their singing from the street. I see the fold of her dress, that look that I know best. I see it all tonight. I feel her warmth tonight. It’s just a sick man’s wish. Now my friends stay and take me all over town. They swear they’ve nowhere to be, but I know better than that. Had I forgotten them? There’s always something waiting. There’s always something waiting for us.