Trash Talk: Love Story
“The Story of Us”
I don’t know if it’s because of or in spite of my experiences, but I love romance stories. I like the hope that comes with a new love. In fact, I’m often guilty of abandoning a story after the false victory, once they’ve fallen in love or gotten together, but before the bad stuff hits. Life has enough of the bad stuff.
I want the fiction of an easy happily ever after. In particular, I always wanted that epic summer romance, the kind I read about in too many Sarah Dessen novels. And one summer, I finally got it.
I’ve only been in love once, and while the ending certainly had its share of “the bad stuff,” the first chapter in the story of us was perfect. It was like something out of a novel, the kind of love story that felt like fizzy lemonade and fresh island air and laying side-by-side on a sun-warmed rock.
July is the peak of summer. July was the month when it began, and, in a way, July was the month when it ended. Well, maybe it began in June. We were always a little uncertain on the exact date, so we just said July 1. But even if the date was forgotten, the details of the very first night are forever etched in my brain.
It began like any great love story. He was a punk, and I did ballet. Kidding! We were park rangers, both spending the summer working at Acadia National Park in Maine. The social scene for a park ranger there was pretty insular. Most people are typically only there for a season, maybe a year and generally hang out with other rangers. It was even common to have the supervisors show up at the parties.
For an introvert like me, this is a nightmare. I find myself dreading most social situations under good circumstances. Add some bosses and intoxication, and that’s just not my idea of a good time. But my new friends and coworkers were hosting us in their stately historic house (gotta love park housing!), so I went to this one.
He was the only person there I didn’t know, brought along by his roommate, who happened to be dating my roommate. We were both standing in a big conversation circle, where some people I can’t recall were sharing some forgettable story. My social anxiety was at a high (as was I), and he seemed equally in need of a diversion. And so, in a move that is very unlike me, I turned to him and said, “you’re the only person here I don’t know!” and proceeded to introduce myself.
I was immediately enchanted. I knew from that first conversation, where we joked over our often-misheard names, continuing the bit all night as multiple people tried to introduce us, that this was special.
For those who don’t have National Parks fun facts memorized (shame on you), Acadia is often referred to as the “crown jewel of the Atlantic Coast.” It’s one of the top-10 most-visited national parks, occupying about half of Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Acadia is home to more than 158 miles of hiking trails, summiting 26 peaks and winding around countless lakes, 45 miles of historic carriage roads with 16 stunning stone-faced bridges and 27 miles of motor roads, including the iconic one-way Park Loop Drive. Geographically, it’s relatively small within the National Park system but rife with breathtaking views and rich history (pun intended, here’s where those fun facts would really help).
To fall in love in this setting was like living a fairytale, with nature providing us countless moments of magic, both minuscule and momentous. We quickly became inseparable, despite working opposite shifts. He would start work at 5 a.m. I would end at 5 p.m. on a good day, and sometimes not until 8 or 9 p.m. if I was giving one of the dreaded bike programs.
Our schedules meant that much of our story unfolded under the moon. We sat under the carriage road bridges on drizzly nights, watching raindrops become rivers. When we didn’t want to venture too far, we would walk around the pond by his house and listen to the beavers slapping their tails. We snuck away from work parties, sitting under the starlight, dressed to the nines while the annual wine and cheese party raged on.
One evening, we hiked one of the highest peaks just in time to watch the sunset on one side and the moonrise on another. Another night, we found a porcupine and porcupette. The mom scurried away quickly while the baby froze in our headlamp beams, allowing us to shamelessly stare. I felt a little like a Disney princess, watching Mother Nature and her woodland creatures put on a show just for us.
We ventured farther afield during the rare occasions when our time off would coincide. There was the weekend getaway to a pirate festival and mustard museum (at which a middle-aged woman dressed as a pirate loudly remarked, “that’s the money shot!” to the embarrassment of her teens).
The day we spent hiking and eating wild raspberries all along the way was cut short by an awful stomachache (it occurs to me now how glaringly obvious my raspberry allergy has been for so many years). There was also the visit to my hometown when he met my parents and helped me pack up my childhood bedroom before my parents sold the house (they had sold my bed literally a week before our visit).
There’s a certain feeling when you just know someone will become an important part of your life. That instant and innate sense that this person is your person. Every experience, joke, and dream you share becomes a small paragraph in your story as it’s written. That summer, I could feel our pages unfold, the possibilities stretching out into forever.
“The Moment I Knew”
Similarly, the question of how you know you’re in love is one that’s often posed, but hard to answer. For me, the inklings came in those small moments, although we wouldn’t say the words for another six months, and the circumstances were much less auspicious.
But I remember the moment I knew. It was one day in late July when I was out on a solo hike and encountered a trail journal. Not the kind that you sign on the way in and out to make sure you don’t die, but the kind where you leave a message. I wrote, “I think I love you” in green pen.
And a little over five years later, a few months removed from that fateful late July day (the date is also a bit uncertain), I used that same green pen to sign the guestbook from his memorial service: “I know I love you.”
July, being the peak of summer, brings the hope and promise of new beginnings. Yet the end always feels a little like the end of summer, even though the school calendar stretches the season through much of August and astronomically it doesn’t end until mid to late September. Maybe it’s the pressure we put on summer to fit in as much as possible, or perhaps it’s my experiences, but it’s hard not to let the summertime sadness creep in.
While our love story is over, in many ways, it’s unfinished. I’ll never get the “breakfast sandwich of my dreams” that was promised (it would have required a return trip to Maine, and the bakery has since closed). He’ll never see our dog grow old. I’ll never get closure.
But I got my epic summer romance, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Falling in love is a little bit like fantasy football. There’s calculated risk, whether that means bearing your heart and soul or putting all your hopes and dreams into your team, and there’s reward. There are no right or wrong ways to fall in love or draft your teams (short of illegal things in either scenario).
And like love, my fantasy philosophy is to try different things. As of late, a strategy I’ve been dabbling in is stacking. Stacks can be a lot like relationships, risk and reward, hoping that two people will work together to bring about happiness. Sometimes they work out, you win big, and sometimes they don’t. Part of the strategy is calculating risks, and I believe these two stacks are lower-risk with the potential for a proportionally high reward:
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers (QB) & AJ Dillon (RB)
Stacking Aaron Rodgers with AJ Dillon almost feels too easy. Rodgers is going as QB 8-11 in single quarterback leagues, which feels like the floor for someone whose worst finish in a full season was QB 10, followed by a few years of QB 6-7. Sure, the days of his top-two QB reign are over, and the loss of Davante Adams (and his 30% target share) will be felt throughout the offense. Yet, that’s all the more reason to count on high usage from Dillon.
In a split backfield with Aaron Jones, another talented pass catcher, Dillon’s skills and great Average Draft Position (ADP) as a backend RB2 will make the difference. In fact, the two running backs’ stats from 2021 are remarkably similar: 803 yards on 187 attempts for Dillon versus 799 rushing yards on 171 attempts for Jones.
While Jones led the two with 65 targets, 52 receptions and 391 passing yards, compared to 37 targets, 34 receptions, and 313 yards from Dillon, the latter was much more efficient, racking up 9.2 Yards Per Reception (YPR) with a 91.9 percent Catch Rate (Jones had 7.5 YPR and an 80% Catch Rate).
Wait a few rounds for the value, stack solid RB2 Dillon with sure-bet-for-a-QB1 Rodgers, and profit.
Houston Texans: Davis Mills (QB) & Brandin Cooks (WR)
Does the idea of a Davis Mills-Brandin Cooks stack sound a bit unappealing? Maybe. And I wouldn’t suggest it in a single-QB league, but this could be a good value in Superflex if you’re punting QB2 or looking for a QB3 with big upside.
The Texans went into the 2021 season with a questionable quarterback situation, with Deshaun Watson inactive and Tyrod Taylor as the starter. And following the unfortunate Taylor Curse, he suffered a hamstring injury during the second week, priming Mills to take over the starting role and become a top-10 QB a la Justin Herbert.
OK, Mills actually ended as QB29, but he finished the season strong and was a top-10 QB during the final five weeks. During that same stretch, he had a 68.4 percent completion rate which, as a season average, would have slotted him behind only Joe Burrow [69.9 percent] and Rodgers 68.9 percent). His overall season rate was 66.8%, solidly ranked at No. 16. To continue the extrapolation, his passing yards per game improved from an overall average of 205 yards per game to 252 yards per game in the final five weeks.
And Cooks is Cooks. That’s the reason. But if you need more of an explanation, he finished the tumultuous 2021 season with a career-high 134 targets and 90 receptions, which was 12th and 13th in the NFL, respectively, among all wide receivers. While his 14.5 PPR points per game and WR20 overall performance didn’t necessarily feel too exciting, he was and should continue to be the clear No. 1 target for the Texans. Combine that with a year under Mills’ belt and more confidence entering the season as the starter, and they are both likely to be a good value at their ADP.
Take a risk, try a stack. Introduce yourself to someone new. Maybe it works out, and you win your league. Perhaps you end up heartbroken. But hopefully, you’ll at least find a little happiness along the way.
PS: Eagle-eyed readers with good musical taste may have noticed a theme with the titles in this article. And if you haven’t picked up on it yet, it’s a Taylor Swift playlist. Enjoy 🙂
Thanks for reading! If you like my kind of trash, you can find more on Twitter @trashsandwiches.