I once had a beautiful junkie boyfriend whose favorite things, besides opiates, were me and Tim, The Replacements’ fourth album from 1985. I first met Scott* at a party in suburban New Jersey when I was 17 and he was 23. We fell in love on the spot, which I had previously thought was impossible. We didn’t kiss until I went to his house to trade records and take Vicodin with him a week later, two things we’d continue to do regularly for the next couple years. Our relationship, like the album, was fragile and flawed, and partially built around hard partying. Both things also had moments that could be scarily unhinged, like the one drugged-out night when we threw all of Scott’s dishes out of his apartment window to shatter on the city sidewalks below, which I recall thinking was the world’s most fun game. While those kinds of fuck-shit-up qualities often work well in music, they’re not so good when they’re reflected in a romantic partner every single night of the week, and especially not when one is a teenager with homework to do.
Scott is long gone from my life, but Tim will stay with me forever. Whenever I hear it, I feel empowered and tough and strong. It still makes me want to fuck shit up, but now I mean it in a good way, as in pushing myself to do the best work I can. The absolute best thing about The Replacements is that they’re one of the only bands I’ve ever heard who convey the feeling of wanting so badly to do better with your life, even if you’re hurting very deeply and making mistakes. The songs on Tim are portraits of people trying – and sometimes failing – to fix up an unkempt life. This is what made it a perfect soundtrack to loving someone who was always “trying to quit” but was never actually getting treatment for his addiction. When I was most in love with Scott, the gorgeous, jingle-bell-laden “Kiss Me on the Bus” (which you basically have to modify into “kiss me on the butt” when you sing along, it’s the law) was a perfect complement to that blissed-out headspace. Then, when things fell apart, “Little Mascara” said it all: “All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya.”
Paul Westerberg’s characters are all losers who are trying very hard to figure out how not to lose anymore, and I identified with that mindset tremendously when I was determining how to handle my feelings about Scott near the end. During the last month of our relationship, I had to physically carry him out of a party I was hosting because he had mixed heroin, ecstasy, and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He was so wasted that he almost fell off the roof of the building. As these awful nights became more and more routine, I knew I had to make a decision.
It’s ironic that Tim, the soundtrack to the early days of our relationship, gave me the strength to call it off. The album we loved so much together asks its listeners to own their weaknesses – like my refusal to stop loving Scott – and then move on from them. “Everybody wants to be someone’s here,” Westerberg sings on “Here Comes A Regular,” the final track on the album. I wanted to be someone’s so badly that I turned my head when my someone stole his dead grandmother’s medication on the night of her funeral, bullshitted his friends and family every single day, and broke my heart over and over and over again. Once the song helped me realize this less-than-awesome fact about myself, I decided it was finally time to stop losing and that I didn’t have to stay with a slow-eyed dopehead who was always lying about where he’d been just because I was afraid of moving on. I hope that someday Scott can hear these songs – our songs – in this way too.
* I changed his name for this story out of respect to his privacy.
Amy Rose Spiegel is a writer and student living in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Rookie.