Prompt: The thing they had to take while traveling. I think they wanted something absurd.

My clinical addiction began in high school and it was kickstarted by a pitch that seemed straight out of an infomercial. At the beginning of my junior year, my English teacher said, “This is scientifically proven in studies. All you have to do is have a little before you take a test. Your memory will be better and you’ll be able to connect information faster. And did I mention that it’s supposed to help you write better?”

High school teachers aren’t supposed to encourage addictions and I have no doubt that Mrs. Thackeray didn’t intend to send me or any of my classmates into a terrible downward spiral of dependency. But this fact remains: my 11th grade IB English teacher opened my eyes to the magical properties of…. sugarless chewing gum. I’ve been an addict ever since. And when it’s real bad, I’m a pack-a-day chewer.

I leave my favorite gum, Trident, everywhere. A pack in my backpack for class, a pack by my keyboard for the office. And while traveling, it is at the top of my luggage, in multiples of three, double-bagged to seal in freshness.

I’m not a xenophobe but I don’t want to take the risk on foreign gum ingredients which may or may not have xylitol. It’s the indispensable ingredient in Trident whose antibacterial property has been scientifically proven to help reduce the length of oral, eye, ear, and nasal infections. But my Trident is so much more than an antibacterial. It’s my cure-all, a wonder drug. An analgesic for my itch, decongestant for my nerves, a laxative for my mind. Never mind that this is scientifically unproven. I swear that it helps me think, run, and breathe easier. For me, it works.

And so I will never travel anywhere without it. Anxiety while running late for a flight? Trident gum. Headache on a plane from crying babies? Trident gum. Mending a popped bus tire? Trident gum. Never mind that it’s an “expensive habit” and “may increase your risk of [blank]” and “this is your [blank] on gum.” IT WORKS. And did I mention that it comes in four original flavors?