May 18, 2022

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I Bet You Think These Songs Are About You

7 min read

If you want to consider I’m a narcissist for assuming Millie’s Spotify playlists have been about me, go in advance. In any case, they in all probability weren’t about you.

Before Millie’s playlists, there was just Millie, the trombonist from Tinder I matched with in my initial thirty day period of an sick-timed 12 months overseas at Oxford College. It was September 2020, 7 months into the pandemic. Most study-absent courses experienced been canceled, and my homebound friends — denied the tapas of Barcelona, the techno of Berlin and the cannabis of Amsterdam — reported I was blessed to go overseas at all.

I was blessed, for sure, but lonely. Amongst distant coursework and Oxford’s limitations on socializing, I understood that conference precise British students — the motive I had come — was likely to be tough. I had traveled 3,000 miles to get marooned on Zoom.

Tinder had never been my issue in The us, but abroad I puzzled if a relationship application might present me what my program could not: a pool of prospective British connections.

“Looking for pals to engage in songs with,” I wrote in my bio, environment my preferences to “Show Anyone.” Soon after a few times of swiping, I experienced arrive no nearer to meeting any Hugh Grant glance-alikes when Millie’s profile appeared like a lifestyle raft.

Her bio referenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Pictures confirmed her grinning ahead of an adoring crowd, flanked by an all-girls funk band. Cheerful, musical, appreciative of Renée Zellweger, Millie seemed like just the variety of man or woman I preferred to befriend.

Swallowing my nerves, I messaged: “Hey! You seem to be really cool!”

Right after a tiny small speak, we agreed to fulfill for beverages.

In the days just before, I subjected Millie to a neurotic deep dive, scanning what social media profiles I could locate for clues about her. On Instagram, I realized she was not only a funk trombonist but a choral singer. On Fb, I noticed she was lively in social justice actions. On Spotify, wherever her playlists had titles like “Feminism in digital music” and “Joni Mitchell: ode to the greatest female in the world,” I observed reassurance that we would get along.

In person, Millie was almost everything I hoped she would be — charismatic, modern, generous (and British). Buoyed by a mutual love of gin and tonics, our discussion danced. We adored Harry Potter, Patsy Cline, moodboarding. A few decades earlier, she experienced frequented New York and lived for a thirty day period on the quite road the place I was born and elevated. Of all streets! This was future. But was it appreciate?

To this working day, I can not tell you irrespective of whether that to start with night was a date. Millie and I did, just after all, meet via Tinder. Even if I specified that I was only searching for close friends, my presence on a hookup app potentially implied I was open up to additional.

Complicating items further more, neither of us determined as straight, and both of those of us ended up nonetheless figuring out just what we may be alternatively. No matter, what I needed abroad was not a hookup buddy (of any gender), or a significant relationship. I just needed a ticket out of my isolation.

We achieved subsequent underneath Mars: The crimson planet, Millie texted, was in “close solution,” meaning we may well be able to location its glowing craters from the financial institutions of the Thames. “I’m informed I’m coming across insane mainly because of this world stuff,” she texted, “but this won’t take place once again until 2033.”

The night time was overcast, but we set up camp in any case 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 portable speaker.

“I enjoy this music,” I said. Drunk on starlight and wine, I arrived residence about midnight and opened my computer to Spotify, the place a new playlist had materialized on Millie’s profile. It was known as “mars is in session,” and “Clair de Lune” was on the tracklist.

Spotify is a portmanteau of “spot” and “identify” — the app’s mentioned function is to support buyers place and discover new songs. But the well known audio system also delivers curious customers the opportunity to extrapolate the mental and emotional states of other people primarily based on their publicly broadcast music feed and private playlist library.

“Mars is in session” was the very first of numerous playlists Millie established about our relationship, playlists I was not absolutely sure she intended me to see. All of them had been community, but their meanings ended up cryptic, decipherable only to Millie — and maybe me. A playlist titled “ilagcl,” for case in point, contained a couple of songs I had suggested to her, and I was confident that the title was an acronym referencing my title.

“Am I insane, or could the letters stand for ‘I like a woman known as Lily?’” I texted my buddies.

I was not nuts a couple of weeks later on, a new playlist of hers popped up titled “have I misread this? I hope not,” accompanied by a image of white lilies.

In the months given that we experienced sat beneath Mars, Millie and I had only found every other a handful of situations. But on one of all those occasions, wine-drunk in her lamplit bedroom, we had kissed. Quickly, Millie and I have been no for a longer period in a situational friendship but a budding intimate entanglement. Our affair had a killer soundtrack, nevertheless I had no hand in scoring it.

It wasn’t bizarre that Millie had curated playlists close to particular times or moods in her daily life. But it was peculiar for me to get an unintended view into her emotions right before she communicated them specifically. I should have said a little something — but what? Would I have to acknowledge the hints I experienced noticed? It felt much easier just to let things enjoy out.

Millie and I slept jointly for the initial time the night in advance of I boarded a plane dwelling. With England headed back into lockdown, I had resolved to lengthen my winter crack indefinitely and take my up coming spherical of Oxford courses from the States till limits eased, even though it meant leaving Millie and my classmates.

On the morning of my departure, bleary-eyed and baggage-laden, we stumbled on to the Underground and rode in silence to Heathrow. I was not sure when I would see her all over again, and we kissed goodbye at the airport with a lot more resignation than passion.

Days later on, separated from Millie by an ocean, I saw a new playlist on her Spotify profile: “the piccadilly line is seriously alternatively very long.” I pressed enjoy, and in the audio I saw Millie, alone on a subway seat, riding again to reality as London yawned awake.

A number of weeks just after I arrived home, Millie requested me to be her girlfriend. The proposal arrived by way of drunk text, 45 minutes prior to English midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“This would be a great convo to have about the cellphone at a later on and additional sober time!!” I shot again.

About the phone the subsequent day, I described that despite the fact that I cared about her deeply, I was not intrigued in an global extensive-distance partnership, primarily in a pandemic.

She said she recognized. Nonetheless, the future early morning, a fresh playlist surfaced: “if you need to have me i’ll be wallowing.”

Most of the tracks on it experienced been added in the times right after that telephone contact. But a few months in the past, Millie extra a couple extra. I wouldn’t have witnessed the new songs if I hadn’t absent seeking for them. But I couldn’t assistance myself — following Millie and I stopped talking regularly, I uncovered myself lingering on her Spotify profile, searching for clues about how she was faring.

Five months after dropping me at Heathrow, Millie was there again to pick me up. I had made a decision to return to Oxford for a handful of weeks at the conclude of my system so we could complete my year there alongside one another.

Though we had chattered excitedly more than the mobile phone about my return, the moment we reunited in particular person, our earlier confronted us like a incredibly substantial elephant in a pretty modest place. In the months we experienced invested aside, we experienced slice our hair, seen other people and scarcely addressed our feelings.

The day I left England once again, this time for good, Millie uploaded a 91-music playlist. Its include art was a chapel bathed in sunset gentle. Its title? “Let Go.”

If playlist titles are any indication, Millie is accomplishing properly these days: running, hosting evening meal get-togethers, sluggish dancing. But when people new tunes appeared on “if you have to have me i’ll be wallowing,” I questioned if she was imagining of me, or if someone new had allow her down.

It is not my organization, just like searching for concealed indicators in track titles and playlist names is not my business enterprise. It is my pleasure, though, to see a playlist like “all i’m wearing is my leopard print pants” and know that my good friend throughout the pond will retain dancing to Tracy Chapman in her underwear until she begins to feel Ok all over again.

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