To tell you about how I ended up standing in a parking lot picking guts out of the grill of my MINI Cooper, I have to first tell you about a boy.

He was a charming Army guy who treated me like an afterthought. So naturally, I was smitten from the moment I met him.

We met because of roller derby. He showed up, he liked how I looked in my hot pants, and he wooed me for a few weeks until he dropped suddenly off the face of the earth. I was a little heartbroken, wondering what I had done, before I finally accepted that it was time to move on.

But he appeared again one day — because as it turns out, thanks to roller derby, the whole world knows how to find me. He charmed me again, explaining that he had been on deployment and just didn’t have time to tell me before he left. So we should get together. I said yes.

We met back up at his loft in downtown Kansas City for pizza and a movie. He told me about breaking his foot on deployment, about walking for miles each day with a 50 pound pack on his back, and he kissed me sweetly and said we should meet up again that weekend. I was elated.

I drove home, my head in the clouds, when I felt my car thump forcefully over something in the road. The front end slammed down hard on the road as blood splattered across my windshield. I looked up wildly into my rear view mirror. It was too dark to see what had happened.

“Oh crap oh crap oh crap,” I shouted and continued to drive for a moment.

Fear boiled up in my heart. Because of my Illinois roots and long-time love of horror movies, images from Stephen King’s Children of the Corn came straight to mind.

“I hit a person,” I thought. “What if I just committed a hit-and-run?”

I paused for a moment, realizing quickly that a person would have demolished my tiny car.

“Okay, it’s not a person…” I stewed. “But what was it?”

I kept driving for a moment, finally admitting to myself it was time to pull over to see what I did.

I kept my hands on the wheel and breathed deeply to calm myself.

“Okay, okay, okay,” I said. “Go check it out.”

I stepped out slowly and could see steam rising from the hood. I smelled radiator fluid.

“Crap crap crap,” I shouted, slowly walking toward the front of the car.

The front left side was dented in. Wrapped around the smashed grill was some kind of animal. I couldn’t tell what it was — all I knew was its guts were entwined in my front end.

I sobbed.

“I’m so sorry!” I was crying uncontrollably and screaming at the top of my lungs. “Whatever you are, I hope you had a long, happy life! WHAT HAVE I DONE?”

I stood staring at steam, blood, and guts for a moment, letting the tears stream down my face.

I got out my phone and texted my Army guy.

“I just hit something.” I wrote.

“What?” He typed back.

“I hit something.” I replied.

“Do you need me to do something?” He wrote back.

“I don’t know! What do I do?” I typed.

“I don’t know… I guess just keep me posted on what you decide?”

So there I stood, feeling alone, and wondering why he didn’t want to come to my rescue.

“Okay, I need a plan,” I thought. “I really need to go get these guts out of my grill.”

I got back into my car and drove the 20 miles back home. I found the first car wash I could find and got back out to inspect the damage in the street lights.

“This is worse than I thought it was,” I thought. Power washing alone wasn’t going to unwrap the large intestine that had lodged itself into the car.

I found a stick on the parking lot nearby and started to pry the intestines out. Gagging with each tug on the stick, blood, fur, and organs flung off of the car until the car was mostly clear. One power wash later, there were still bits of animal left on the car. I lifted the hood to see my punctured radiator and wondered what to do next.

Naturally, I went home. The smell of death permeated my nostrils and I emailed my mom an updated. The next day, insurance got me moving and I got confirmation from the body shop that I had hit a coyote, to which my mom said, “Just think about how many pets you saved from that animal. You’re a hero.”

I hadn’t heard back from the boy to check on me until several weeks later. He asked me to meet up with him for dinner. We met up with his friends and he told me he was moving to Washington DC. His Army buddy ended up kissing me that night trying to keep men off of him at a gay bar, and it wasn’t until that moment that he started calling me his “girl” — even though he’d go weeks without even seeing how I was doing. He introduced me as his derby girl — and then I started to see what I was to him. A trophy, but only when it was convenient.

In the end, it was best that he left. I finally woke up and realized that I was better off without him.

It just took some guts to see it.

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