Chatting with a friend I hadn’t talked to in years… it’s funny what changes and what doesn’t. I’m not dating, and that troubles her even though it doesn’t faze me in the slightest. She isn’t just at present, but there is some guy she’s recently broken up with and not yet over. And he’s breadcrumbing her, though she doesn’t know the term or recognize the behavior until I mention it.
It’s not really a new thing. The ability to use social media or texting for the purpose may be its latest incarnation, but years ago people could do it by email, and before that, by phone (or I suppose by actual mail) just as easily. Not 2 weeks after I’d realized that I was well and truly over M., he called me — he used to do that, even though he’d made it clear years before that he wasn’t interested in me — but he’d call, just every so often, just to keep the connection alive, just to check to see if I was still emotionally invested in him. Usually he would drop some kind of emotional bombshell (“I got married” or “I’m having kids” or somesuch), wait for it to take its toll, and then laugh (“Just kidding!”) like it was hilarious. The best joke ever.
Is it just me, or is that kind of an a-hole move? It is, right?
All I knew at the time was that it hurt like hell. Every time.
But then, the last time he called, out of the blue after a year or two of silence — as I said, just a few weeks after the epiphany that I really hadn’t even thought of him in I-couldn’t-even-say-how-long, that I couldn’t find the sore spot in my heart anymore, even if I went looking for it, that I really was over it, and thank God — he told me he’d gotten married. My first reaction was just to ignore it. Because it didn’t affect me, and anyway Dude that isn’t even a new one. So he repeated it, in earnest this time. And after I laughed off that I’d ignored it because I thought he was kidding (again), I told him I was happy for him.
And I really was.
And I think he realized that I really was too, because there was a quality to his voice… surprise. Almost… disappointment. Maybe some of that was having prepared himself for an emotional battle that would never take place, but I think it was something else too. A loss of something he’d counted on: that I would always be there, caring about him, no matter what. A comforting thought that someone, somewhere would always be a little bit in love with him. All those phone calls over the years, meant to keep the connection alive… and they had done their job for FAR too long. But not any more.
Today breadcrumbs are still easier to drop. It’s the random message, via text or an app. I’m thinking of you, it says without saying it, ensuring that we will think of them back. Just in case there was any chance at all that we weren’t already thinking of them.
And possibly triggering a baking spree and a binge on homemade chocolate chip cookies for a while.
Digital or no, breadcrumbs are fattening.