If you wish to suppose I am a narcissist for assuming Millie’s Spotify playlists had been about me, go forward. In any case, they in all probability 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 12 months overseas at Oxford College. It was September 2020, seven months into the pandemic. Most study-away applications had been canceled, and my homebound associates — denied the tapas of Barcelona, the techno of Berlin and the hashish of Amsterdam — mentioned I used to be fortunate to go overseas in any respect.
I used to be fortunate, for certain, 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 tough. I had traveled 3,000 miles to get marooned on Zoom.
Tinder had by no means been my factor in America, however overseas I questioned if a courting app would possibly provide me what my program could not: a pool of potential British connections.
“Searching for associates to play music with,” I wrote in my bio, setting my preferences to “Present Everybody.” After a number 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 particular person I wished to befriend.
Swallowing my nerves, I messaged: “Hey! You appear actually cool!”
After somewhat small discuss, we agreed to fulfill 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 the earth,” I discovered reassurance that we might get alongside.
In particular person, Millie was all the pieces I hoped she can 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 what does it love?
To this present day, I am unable to 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 on the lookout for associates, 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 had been nonetheless determining simply what we could 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 underneath Mars: The purple planet, Millie texted, which was in “shut strategy,” that means we would be capable of spot its glowing craters from the banks of the Thames. “I am conscious I am coming throughout insane due to this planet stuff,” she texted, “however this may not 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 transportable speaker.
“I really like this music,” I mentioned. Drunk on starlight and wine, I arrived dwelling round midnight and opened my pc to Spotify, the place a brand 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 “establish” — the app’s said perform is to assist customers spot and establish new music. However the fashionable music platform additionally affords curious customers the chance to extrapolate the psychological and emotional states of different customers based mostly on their publicly broadcast music feed and private playlist library.
“Mars is in session” was the primary of many playlists Millie created about our relationship, playlists I wasn’t certain she supposed me to see. All of them had been public, however their meanings had been cryptic, decipherable solely to Millie — and perhaps me. A playlist titled “ilagcl,” for instance, contained a number of songs I had really useful to her, and I used to be satisfied that the title was an acronym referencing my title.
“Am I loopy, or might the letters stand for ‘I like a lady known as Lily?'” I texted my associates.
I wasn’t loopy; a number 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 occasions. However on a kind of events, wine-drunk in her lamplit bed room, we had kissed. All of a sudden, Millie and I had 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 mentioned 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 airplane dwelling. 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, though it meant leaving Millie and my classmates.
On the morning of my departure, bleary-eyed and baggage-loading, we stumbled onto the underground and rode in silence to Heathrow. I wasn’t certain after 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 absolutely moderately lengthy.” I pressed play, and within the music I noticed Millie, alone on a subway seat, driving again to actuality as London yawned awake.
A number of weeks after I arrived dwelling, Millie requested me to be her girlfriend. The proposal arrived through drunk textual content, 45 minutes earlier than English midnight on New 12 months’s Eve.
“This is able to be convo to have over the telephone at a later and extra sober time!!” I shot again.
Over the telephone the subsequent day, I defined that though I cared about her deeply, I wasn’t desirous about a global long-distance relationship, particularly in a pandemic.
She mentioned she understood. However, the subsequent morning, a recent playlist surfaced: “for those who want me i will be wallowing.”
A lot of the songs on it had been added within the days after that telephone name. However a number of months in the past, Millie added a pair extra. I would not have seen the brand new songs if I hadn’t gone on the lookout for them. However I could not assist myself — after Millie and I ended talking recurrently, I discovered myself lingering on her Spotify profile, on the lookout for clues about how she was faring.
5 months after dropping me at Heathrow, Millie was there once more to choose me up. I had determined to return to Oxford for a number of weeks on the finish of my program so we might end my 12 months there collectively.
Whereas we had chattered excitedly over the telephone about my return, as soon as we reunited in particular person, our previous confronted us like a really giant elephant in a really small room. Within the months we had spent aside, we had reduce 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 effectively as of late: working, internet hosting dinner events, sluggish dancing. However when these new songs appeared on “for those who want me i will be wallowing,” I questioned if she was pondering of me, or if somebody new had let her down.
It is not my enterprise, identical to looking for hidden alerts in music titles and playlist names shouldn’t be my enterprise. It is my pleasure, although, to see a playlist like “all i am carrying is my leopard print pants” and know that my good friend throughout the pond will maintain dancing to Tracy Chapman in her underwear till she begins to really feel OK once more.