Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Jeff Ament
Original Release: Vitalogy
Definitive Version: Bootleg: Columbus, 8-21-00, 2001. Why? Because I was there.
Debbie always said she thought of me when she heard this song. I didn’t. I never really considered this to be one of “my” songs. I liked it, no question, but then I liked almost every Pearl Jam song back then.
Then everything changed between us. I moved out of our house Memorial Day weekend 2001.
The move was a two-part process. The first part was by rental truck. Jin flew in from L.A. to help with that part of the move. I told her it was unnecessary, but she wouldn’t hear of it. I needed the help, she said, and who was I to argue? Scott and Shani came up from Cincinnati, and that was sufficient. All I wanted to do on this move was move boxes; I’d hire movers to move my furniture.
From the Baseball Room alone, I had maybe 80 boxes of memorabilia and whatnot. Then there were all the books and CDs and videotapes and assorted bric-a-brac that I had carefully packed into paper boxes that I had been bringing home from the Dispatch for weeks in anticipation.
The move went pretty smoothly, actually. We had food weather, and I had to stop for a crying break alone in the garage only once, so we were done by early evening. Actually, aside from the sadness of leaving that clung on everything like kudzu, there was only one particularly unpleasant moment.
That came early in the day, before I got the rental truck, when I had to tell Berke, our next-door neighbor, that I was leaving. As I mentioned, he had been a great neighbor to us, and he had lost his wife to cancer a year before. He was upset by my news, but he promised me that he would look out for Debbie while I was gone. As it turned out, that was the last time I saw Berke.
And as for Debbie, well, I had told her to get lost that weekend. Living together for about six weeks after she gave me my walking papers had been like living in purgatory: It’s not the worst thing that can happen but it’s not good. I felt like a zombie the whole time, and I absolutely didn’t want her around on the actual moving weekend.
She fought me a bit, but I wasn’t about to be persuaded on this. I do not want to SEE YOU on the day I’m moving out of the house THAT I FOUND against my will. Got it? She reluctantly agreed and went to Indiana to visit with the same friend whom she was with when she decided we needed to break up.
I, however, agreed that I wouldn’t completely leave before she got back, so I scheduled the movers to come Tuesday morning after Memorial Day. That last night was excruciating. We had our “last dinner” together, and she asked me in some kind of cruel self-flagellative gesture to tell her everyplace where I thought she didn’t measure up—as if I were the one who wanted us to break up.
I wasn’t going to do it. You want me to identify the secret faults, so you can improve on them for someone else? No possible benefit could be derived from this. It might even have been a release for me, but I wasn’t interested in venting. I finally relented, and I’ve had tooth extractions that were more pleasant. Maybe she wanted me to do it, so she wouldn’t feel entirely like the bad guy here. Who knows?
Anyway the next morning—the day I left—we saw a gigantic pileated woodpecker out the back window of our bedroom. We had never seen one and had been searching in vain in our backyard for four years. It was a perfectly bittersweet moment. Debbie left to go to work, and after the movers showed up and took care of my furniture, which didn’t take very long, I left the house for the last time.
By the end of the day I was in my old bed, which had served as the guest bed for the past six years, in my new apartment. In almost every room I was surrounded by only a few pieces of furniture and stacks of paper boxes, some of which were never opened in the nearly two years I lived there. It was very still.
Years later, I introduced Laurie to Pearl Jam, just as I had Debbie a decade before. It didn’t take long for Laurie to identify this song as one of her favorite. It must be a female thing, I guess. Anyway, Laurie says it makes her think of me.
Now, I agree—one particular time anyway.