Luke came to my front door in New Orleans on a sunny day several years ago with a sparsely decorated cassette tape and said, “I made this for you.” I could tell this was a move he had used with other women, but I had to hand it to him: It was a good one.
This wasn’t the ’90s when mix tapes were a popular medium for revealing a crush. Even mix CDs had come and gone. If you were going to use someone else’s songwriting to convey your feelings, you did it with a Spotify playlist. I was charmed that Luke liked music and was obstinately analog about it.
I had only recently started dating Luke. We were doing that casual, millennial thing that begins on Tinder and spreads into bar dates, sandwiched between bar dates with other people. I tended to be dating three people at a time — both men and women — and the life spans of my pseudo-relationships averaged two months or so. I liked it this way. A capital-R relationship seemed too big for my life, a concrete shape I had no room for.
But when I listened to Luke’s mix tape, I felt tricked. This was not a casual mix tape. It had folk songs about longing and soul music about feelings. It had “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and something by Usher.
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