If you wish to assume I’m a narcissist for assuming Millie’s Spotify playlists have been about me, go forward. In any case, they most likely weren’t about you.
Earlier than Millie’s playlists, there was simply Millie, the trombonist from Tinder I matched with in my first month of an ill-timed yr overseas at Oxford College. It was September 2020, seven months into the pandemic. Most study-away packages had been canceled, and my homebound mates — denied the tapas of Barcelona, the techno of Berlin and the hashish of Amsterdam — stated I used to be fortunate to go overseas in any respect.
I used to be fortunate, for positive, however lonely. Between distant coursework and Oxford’s restrictions on socializing, I spotted that assembly precise British college students — the rationale I had come — was going to be troublesome. I had traveled 3,000 miles to get marooned on Zoom.
Tinder had by no means been my factor in America, however overseas I puzzled if a relationship app would possibly supply me what my program couldn’t: a pool of potential British connections.
“On the lookout for mates to play music with,” I wrote in my bio, setting my preferences to “Present Everybody.” After a couple of days of swiping, I had come no nearer to assembly any Hugh Grant look-alikes when Millie’s profile appeared like a life raft.
Her bio referenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Footage confirmed her grinning earlier than an adoring crowd, flanked by an all-girls funk band. Cheerful, musical, appreciative of Renée Zellweger, Millie appeared like simply the kind of individual I needed to befriend.
Swallowing my nerves, I messaged: “Hey! You appear actually cool!”
After a little bit small discuss, we agreed to satisfy for drinks.
Within the days earlier than, I subjected Millie to a neurotic deep dive, scanning what social media profiles I might discover for clues about her. On Instagram, I discovered she was not solely a funk trombonist however a choral singer. On Fb, I noticed she was energetic in social justice actions. On Spotify, the place her playlists had titles like “Feminism in digital music” and “Joni Mitchell: ode to the best lady on this planet,” I discovered reassurance that we’d get alongside.
In individual, Millie was every thing I hoped she could be — charismatic, trendy, beneficiant (and British). Buoyed by a mutual love of gin and tonics, our dialog danced. We adored Harry Potter, Patsy Cline, moodboarding. A number of years earlier, she had visited New York and lived for a month on the very avenue the place I used to be born and raised. Of all streets! This was future. However was it love?
To this present day, I can’t let you know whether or not that first night was a date. Millie and I did, in any case, meet by means of Tinder. Even when I specified that I used to be solely searching for mates, my presence on a hookup app maybe implied I used to be open to extra.
Complicating issues additional, neither of us recognized as straight, and each of us have been nonetheless determining simply what we may be as a substitute. Regardless, what I wanted overseas wasn’t a hookup buddy (of any gender), or a severe relationship. I simply wanted a ticket out of my isolation.
We met subsequent beneath Mars: The crimson planet, Millie texted, was in “shut method,” that means we would be capable of spot its glowing craters from the banks of the Thames. “I’m conscious I’m coming throughout insane due to this planet stuff,” she texted, “however this gained’t occur once more till 2033.”
The evening was overcast, however we arrange camp anyway with a blanket and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Swans slid throughout the glassy river in time to Kamasi Washington’s “Clair de Lune,” which Millie performed on her moveable speaker.
“I really like this tune,” I stated. Drunk on starlight and wine, I arrived house round midnight and opened my laptop to Spotify, the place a brand new playlist had materialized on Millie’s profile. It was referred to as “mars is in session,” and “Clair de Lune” was on the tracklist.
Spotify is a portmanteau of “spot” and “establish” — the app’s said operate is to assist customers spot and establish new music. However the common music platform additionally gives curious customers the chance to extrapolate the psychological and emotional states of different customers based mostly on their publicly broadcast tune feed and private playlist library.
“Mars is in session” was the primary of many playlists Millie created about our relationship, playlists I wasn’t positive she meant me to see. All of them have been public, however their meanings have been cryptic, decipherable solely to Millie — and perhaps me. A playlist titled “ilagcl,” for instance, contained a couple of songs I had really helpful to her, and I used to be satisfied that the title was an acronym referencing my identify.
“Am I loopy, or might the letters stand for ‘I like a lady referred to as Lily?’” I texted my mates.
I wasn’t loopy; a couple of weeks later, a brand new playlist of hers popped up titled “have I misinterpret this? I hope not,” accompanied by an image of white lilies.
Within the weeks since we had sat beneath Mars, Millie and I had solely seen one another a handful of instances. However on a type of events, wine-drunk in her lamplit bed room, we had kissed. Out of the blue, Millie and I have been not in a situational friendship however a budding romantic entanglement. Our affair had a killer soundtrack, although I had no hand in scoring it.
It wasn’t unusual that Millie had curated playlists round particular moments or moods in her life. However it was unusual for me to get an unintended view into her emotions earlier than she communicated them immediately. I ought to have stated one thing — however what? Would I’ve to confess the hints I had seen? It felt simpler simply to let issues play out.
Millie and I slept collectively for the primary time the evening earlier than I boarded a aircraft house. With England headed again into lockdown, I had determined to increase my winter break indefinitely and take my subsequent spherical of Oxford programs from the States till restrictions eased, although it meant leaving Millie and my classmates.
On the morning of my departure, bleary-eyed and baggage-laden, we stumbled onto the Underground and rode in silence to Heathrow. I wasn’t positive once I would see her once more, and we kissed goodbye on the airport with extra resignation than ardour.
Days later, separated from Millie by an ocean, I noticed a brand new playlist on her Spotify profile: “the piccadilly line is admittedly fairly lengthy.” I pressed play, and within the music I noticed Millie, alone on a subway seat, using again to actuality as London yawned awake.
A number of weeks after I arrived house, Millie requested me to be her girlfriend. The proposal arrived by way of drunk textual content, 45 minutes earlier than English midnight on New 12 months’s Eve.
“This could be an excellent convo to have over the cellphone at a later and extra sober time!!” I shot again.
Over the cellphone the following day, I defined that though I cared about her deeply, I wasn’t fascinated by a world long-distance relationship, particularly in a pandemic.
She stated she understood. However, the following morning, a recent playlist surfaced: “should you want me i’ll be wallowing.”
A lot of the songs on it had been added within the days after that cellphone name. However a couple of months in the past, Millie added a pair extra. I wouldn’t have seen the brand new songs if I hadn’t gone searching for them. However I couldn’t assist myself — after Millie and I ended talking commonly, I discovered myself lingering on her Spotify profile, searching for clues about how she was faring.
5 months after dropping me at Heathrow, Millie was there once more to select me up. I had determined to return to Oxford for a couple of weeks on the finish of my program so we might end my yr there collectively.
Whereas we had chattered excitedly over the cellphone about my return, as soon as we reunited in individual, our previous confronted us like a really massive elephant in a really small room. Within the months we had spent aside, we had lower our hair, seen different folks and barely addressed our emotions.
The day I left England once more, this time for good, Millie uploaded a 91-song playlist. Its cowl artwork was a chapel bathed in sundown mild. Its title? “Let Go.”
If playlist titles are any indication, Millie is doing properly nowadays: working, internet hosting dinner events, sluggish dancing. However when these new songs appeared on “should you want me i’ll be wallowing,” I puzzled if she was pondering of me, or if somebody new had let her down.
It’s not my enterprise, identical to trying to find hidden indicators in tune titles and playlist names is just not my enterprise. It’s my pleasure, although, to see a playlist like “all i’m sporting is my leopard print pants” and know that my good friend throughout the pond will preserve dancing to Tracy Chapman in her underwear till she begins to really feel OK once more.