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Exxon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The sign said "San Luis Obispo, 30 miles." I glanced down at the gas gauge and watched the red line move past E. As the car sputtered and died I was reminded that the E stood for empty and that now my car was just that. I got out of the car and stared at it, hoping I could receive guidance from its lonely form stranded in the middle of nowhere. Well, I thought to myself, you like to hike, so let's go.

The day's light was washing against the horizon. My shadow began to stretch out beside me, keeping me company on the highway. My gas can clanked against my leg as I walked, its noise the only sound other than the occasional car that raced its owner toward home. As the cold beat into my skin like an ice axe beats into a mountainside, I casually stuck out my thumb. But who would stop on an open stretch of highway like this? I stuck my hand back in my pocket and balled it into a fist, waiting for my skin to pass the heat through my pants.

Resigned to walking, I bent my head into the wind and started off again. My mind raced with the cars as they passed, and I wondered if I would have to walk the whole thirty miles before I came to a station. I watched the uneven crumpled asphalt pass underfoot - until a flash of color broke the raw blackness. I walked the last one half mile squinting at a sign in the distance, trying to read the name of the company that was to save me from a long, cold night. "Exxon" it read in blue and white and red letters. "Exxon" it glared. "Exxon": it turned round and round as it assaulted the black sky. "Exxon." It sank into my mind.

I had boycotted Exxon since the oil spill and the damage that ensued. But tonight it was to be a difficult decision between my values and making it home on time. No one will ever know if I buy a couple of gallons, I thought. Except of course, me. I would know that I had bought gas from a company I didn't wish to support. I would know, and I would have to live with it. I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that my few gallons wouldn't really make a difference in the whole scheme of things. But, there may not be another station for miles, taunted a part of me that I wasn't happy to hear from. And if you buy enough here, you can fill it up somewhere else. I was so tempted to buy the gas as I approached the station; I just wanted to make it home. But everything I believed in at that moment seemed to hinge on whether I bought the gas or not. It wasn't simply a question anymore of whether to stop for help at Exxon. It was a question of whether I had the strength to stand up for anything I believed in. I now had to ask myself if it was a true conviction or simply my following the crowd of new environmentalists. But who would I be if I didn't have the strength? Would I be a terrible person or just confused as to who I was? And would I be able to say to my father when I got home that he could be proud of his little girl for doing the "right" thing? It was cold and windy that night that I walked past Exxon into the darkness. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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