How splitting a piece of gum ruined our lives

Two seniors, Claudia Elsenbast and Nathanael Ashton-Piper, recount the horrid day when their lives changed all because of one piece of gum.


Ashley Ortizcazarin

Nathanael Ashton-Piper and Claudia Elsenbast try to smile on the brink of tears after splitting a piece of gum.

It started third hour World Religions with Mr. Loecken. Earlier that day, Claudia had consumed an Everything Bagel from Bruegger’s Bagels for breakfast, and I consumed an orange juice from Taher. We breathed noxious air, and we both knew it. In our time of need, we turned to our fellow classmates, seeking gum and minty-fresh breath.

After asking 90% of our classmates to no avail, our search took us to the tweenage-filled freshmen hallway. We searched for familiar faces—six inches below eye-level. We found asylum near the locker of a classmate’s younger sibling. They cowered in fear, as we coerced them for a piece of gum. We preferred peppermint, but at this point, spearmint would have to do. They whipped out their Truth or Dare 5 gum package, and we knew we had picked the right supplier. But then we saw fateful contents of the flashy 5 gum package.

But then we saw fateful contents of the flashy 5 gum package.”

Three faces turned from casual soft smiles to forced soft-smiles; there was only one piece of gum remaining. The Freshmen had done all he could and handed the piece of gum to Claudia. She looked at it, then looked at me, and then back to the gum as if wondering if she could make a run for it—leaving me gum-less. But then she remembered the Christian Brothers’ tradition: the common basket, that taught us to give what we can, and take what we need.

“Is it worth it,” we asked each other. “Is there any way we can get more…whose breath is worse?” After two minutes of solid reflection, we both knew what had to be done. “Like my man Jesus, let’s break this bread,” I said. Claudia looked liked she’d seen a ghost, “Do we have to split it?” she asked rhetorically. I simply bowed my head, and averted my eyes, as I heard the delicate rip of cheap paper and quality gum. She turned around, wiped a tear from her cheek, and handed me the minutely smaller piece of gum. But not before reading the cackle-inducing truth or dare from the 5 gum package. The gum didn’t “stimulate my senses” as it normally does; I felt half a man—empty inside.

Shortly after this episode, Claudia fell ill with the common cold—similar to one that George Washington died from. My immune system followed suit, with absences beginning shortly after Claudia’s. We cleaned our local Walgreens out of Nyquil, missed a ludicrous amount of school, missed the remainder of our senior year, failed all our finals, and bypassed college in order to hunt down that freshmen who made two ailing seniors with bad morning breath split a piece of gum.