I guess you think these songs are about you

If you want to think I’m a narcissist for assuming Millie’s Spotify playlists were about me, go right ahead.

In any case, they probably weren’t about you.

Before Millie’s playlists, there was only Millie, the trombonist from Tinder whom I met in my first month of an awkward year abroad at the Oxford University.

It was September 2020, seven months after the start of the pandemic.

Most study abroad programs had been cancelled, and my homebound friends—who could no longer enjoy the tapas of Barcelona, ​​the techno of Berlin, and the cannabis of Amsterdam—said I was lucky to just go abroad.

I was lucky, no doubt, but I felt alone.

Between the work of Distance learning courses and Oxford’s restrictions on socializing, I realized that meeting real British students—the reason I had come—would be difficult.

He had traveled 5,000 kilometers to be abandoned on Zoom.

Tinder had never been my thing in America, but abroad I wondered if a dating app could offer me what my show couldn’t:

a pool of possible British connections.

“Looking for friends to play music with,” I wrote on my bio, setting my preferences to “Show All.”

After days of searching, I was nowhere close to meeting any Hugh Grant look-alikes when Millie’s profile popped up like a lifeline.

Her biography referenced “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Photos showed her smiling to an adoring crowd, flanked by an all-girl funk band.

Cheerful, musical, and a fan of Renée Zellweger, Millie seemed like just the kind of person I wanted to befriend.

Swallowing my nerves, I sent him a message:

“Hello! You seem to be a cool girl!”

After a short talk, we decided to agree to have a drink.

In the days before, Millie was the subject of one of my neurotic investigations, in which I went through every social media profile I could find to find out more about her.

On Instagram, I learned that he was not only a funk trombonist, but also sang in a choir.

On Facebook, I saw that he was involved in social justice movements.

On Spotify, where her playlists had titles like “Feminism in Electronic Music” and “Joni Mitchell:

ode to the greatest woman in the world”, I found the assurance that we would get along.

In person, Millie was everything I expected:

charismatic, fashionable, generous (and British). Buoyed by a mutual fondness for gin and tonics, our conversation flowed like water.

We loved Harry Potter, Patsy Cline and making mood boards.

Years before, she had visited New York and lived for a month in the same street where I was born and I grew up

Of all the possible streets, he lived on that one.

This was fate. But was it love?

To this day, I don’t know if that first night was a date.

Millie and I, after all, met through Tinder.

Although I specified that I was only looking for friends, my presence on a dating app perhaps implied that I was open to something else.

To further complicate matters, neither identified as heterosexualand we were both still discovering what we could be instead.

Either way, what I needed abroad was neither a casual encounter (of any gender) nor a serious relationship.

I just needed a ticket out of my isolation.

We then met under Mars: Millie texted me that the Red Planet was “closer,” meaning we could see its glowing craters from the banks of the Thames.

“I realize I sound crazy about this whole planet thing, but this won’t happen again until 2033,” she told me in the message she sent.

The night was cloudy, but we set up camp anyway with a blanket and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon.

Swans glided down the crystal-clear river to the tune of Kamasi Washington’s “Clair de Lune,” which Millie played on her portable speaker.

“I love this song,” I told him.

Intoxicated by starlight and wine, I got home around midnight and opened my computer to Spotify, where a new playlist had materialized on Millie’s profile.

It was called “Mars Season Is Here,” and “Clair de Lune” was on the set list.

Spotify is a compound word of “spot” and “identify”: the app’s stated function is to help users discover and identify new music.

But the popular music platform also offers curious users the chance to extrapolate the mental and emotional states of other users based on their publicly broadcast song updates and their personal library of playlists.

“It’s Mars Season” was the first of many playlists Millie created about our relationship, lists she wasn’t sure she wanted me to watch.

They were all public, but their meanings were cryptic, decipherable only to Millie, and perhaps to me.

A playlist titled “ilagcl”, for example, contained some songs that I had recommendedand I was convinced that the title was an acronym that referred to my name.

“Am I crazy or could those lyrics mean ‘I like a girl named Lily’?” I texted my friends.

I wasn’t crazy; a few weeks later, a new playlist of hers appeared titled “Did I misread this? I hope not”, accompanied by an image of white lilies (which in English sound like my name).

In the weeks since we sat under Mars, Millie and I had only seen each other a few times.

But on one of those occasions, drunk on wine in her lamplit bedroom, we had kissed.

Suddenly, Millie and I had gone from being a casual friendship to a budding romantic entanglement.

Our romance it had a deluxe soundtrack, although I had not participated in its composition.

No wonder Millie had created playlists around specific moments or moods in her life.

But it was strange that I had an involuntary glimpse of her feelings before she communicated them directly to me.

I should have said something, but what?

Would he have to admit the clues he had seen?

I found it easier to let things happen.

Millie and I first slept together the night before she boarded a plane home.

With England going into lockdown again, I had decided to extend my winter break indefinitely and take the next stage of Oxford courses from the States until restrictions were eased, even if it meant leaving Millie and my classmates.

On the morning of my departure, bleary-eyed and laden with luggage, we boarded the tube and rode in silence to Heathrow.

I wasn’t sure when I would see her again, and we said our goodbyes at the airport with more resignation that passion.

Days later, separated from Millie by an ocean, I saw a new playlist on her Spotify profile:

“The Piccadilly line is actually quite long.”

I hit the play button, and in the music I saw Millie, alone on a seat on the tube, snapping back to reality as London yawned awake.

A few weeks after we got home, Millie asked me to be her fiancee.

The proposal came through a text message she wrote drunk, 45 minutes before midnight, which would mark the New Year in England.

“It would be nice to have this conversation on the phone later and more sober!” I replied.

The next day, I explained to her over the phone that, although I loved her very much, I was not interested in a long distance international relationshipespecially during the pandemic.

He told me he understood.

However, the next morning, a new playlist appeared:

“If you need me, I’ll be dying of sadness.”

Most of the songs on it had been added in the days after that phone call.

But a few months ago, Millie added a couple more.

I wouldn’t have seen the new songs if I hadn’t searched for them.

But I couldn’t help it: After Millie and I stopped speaking regularly, I found myself prowling through her Spotify profile, looking for clues about how she was doing.

Five months after dropping me off at Heathrow, Millie was there again to pick me up.

I had decided to go back to Oxford for a few weeks at the end of my program so that we could finish my year there together.

Although we had chatted animatedly about my return on the phone, once we met in person, our past confronted us like a huge elephant in a very small room.

In the months we’d been apart, we’d cut our hair, seen other people, and barely processed our feelings.

The day I left England again, this time for good, Millie uploaded a 91-song playlist.

Its cover was a chapel bathed in sunset light.

Your title? “Let her go”.

Judging by the titles of her playlists, Millie is doing well these days: she runs, she hosts dinner parties, she slow dances.

But when those new songs appeared on “If You Need Me, I’ll Be Dying of Sadness,” I wondered if she was thinking of me, or if someone new had let her down.

It’s none of my business, and neither is looking for hidden cues in song titles and playlist names.

However, it is a pleasure for me to see a playlist like “All I have on is my leopard print pants” and know that my friend from across the ocean will continue to dance to Tracy Chapman in her underwear until start feeling good again.

Lily Goldberg, a senior at Williams College, is a finalist in the Modern Love college essay contest.

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