Performer: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Eddie Vedder
Songwriters: David Robbins, Tim Robbins, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Original Release: Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture Dead Man Walking
Definitive Version: None
During the Nineties, I bought almost everything that had any connection to Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder’s on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack? I’m all over it, even though I almost never buy soundtrack albums. It turns out this isn’t even my favorite song from that album.
Sometime after I bought this album in 1996, I made up my mind on a big decision: It was time for Debbie and I to get engaged.
Before we moved in together, Debbie had said that she had never lived with anyone with whom she wasn’t married. Well, she had married her high-school sweetheart not long after graduation and didn’t have a long-term serious boyfriend in between the time that they divorced and we hooked up, so it wasn’t much of a statement. Obviously, that didn’t stop her from moving in with me, but I knew it still bothered her a bit.
Not that that was the reason I decided to pop the question. Debbie and I had been dating for two years and living together for one, and it was going great. We got along together so well, we hadn’t even had a single fight yet. And she was starting to hint at making a real long-term commitment—a house. (Kids were never part of the discussion. Neither of us wanted them.) The time seemed right.
However, I knew ahead of time that we never actually would get married. In retrospect, and in all candor, I don’t know whether that knowledge made it easier to go through with it and ask Debbie. There would be a ring, of course, but no ceremony, thus no follow-through. We weren’t going to get married, even though I’d be asking for her to marry me, because we—and more accurately SHE—couldn’t afford it.
I might have mentioned this, but Debbie’s ex was in the military, which is why she had so many far-flung friends. When they divorced, her ex insisted that she sign an agreement that she couldn’t collect any of his military pension when he retired if she remarried.
Thanks to shoddy legal representation, she signed the agreement, even though she felt entitled to a portion of his pension. In fact, you could argue, and she did argue, that she had earned it because of the sacrifice she made in moving somewhere new—and thus starting a new job with no benefits—every other year. Of course, because Debbie was always changing jobs, she had never been able to build up enough savings to pay for her own retirement, and her salary was so low that she hadn’t been able to save anything since.
I was concerned enough that I could afford my own retirement, let alone that of both of us. (I’m no longer concerned about myself. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I WON’T be able to afford my own retirement—particularly if the Republicans successfully gut Social Security to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy.) So, I certainly couldn’t in all good conscience ask Debbie to give up what she had earned, regardless of the reason.
Now, as far as I was concerned, we WOULD be married, even if we didn’t have a money-draining ceremony or a legal document saying so. If we had a house, that would be enough.
Now all I had to do was come up with a plan for when and how I would do it.