Never Always Sometimes - Adi Alsaid





THE KIDS WALKING past Dave seemed to be in some other

universe. They moved too quickly, they were too animated, they

talked too loudly. They held on to their backpacks too tightly, checked

themselves in tiny mirrors hanging on the inside of their lockers too

often, acted as if everything mattered too much. Dave knew the truth:

Nothing mattered. Nothing but the fact that when school was out for

the day, he and Julia were going to spend the afternoon at Morro Bay.

No one had told him that March of senior year would feel like it

was made of Jell-O. After he’d received his acceptance letter from

UCLA, high school had morphed into something he could basically

see through. When, two days later, Julia received her congratulations

from UCSB, only an hour up the coastline, the whole world took on

brighter notes, like the simple primary colors of Jell-O flavors. They

giggled constantly.

Julia’s head appeared by his side, leaning against the locker next to

his. It was strange how he could see her every day and still be surprised by how it felt to have her near. She knocked her head against the

locker softly and combed her hair behind her ear. “It’s like time has

ceased to advance. I swear I’ve been in Marroney’s class for a decade.

I can’t believe it’s only lunch.”

“There is nothing in here I care about,” Dave announced into

his locker. He reached into a crumpled heap of papers on top of a

history textbook he hadn’t pulled out in weeks and grabbed a single,

ripped page. “Apparently, I got a C on an art assignment last year.” He showed the drawing to Julia: a single palm tree growing out of a tiny

half moon of an island in the middle of a turquoise ocean.

“Don’t show UCLA that. They’ll pull your scholarship.”

Dave crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it at a nearby

garbage can. It careened off the edge and rolled back to his feet. He

picked it up and shoved it back into the locker. “Any notable Marroney

moments today?”

“I can’t even remember,” Julia said, moving aside to make room for

Dave’s locker neighbor. “The whole day has barely registered.” She

put her head on Dave’s shoulder and let out a sigh. “I think he ate a

piece of chalk.”

It was pleasant torture, how casually she could touch him. Dave

kept exploring the wasteland of his locker, tossing out a moldy,

half-eaten bagel, occasionally unfolding a sheet of paper with mild

curiosity, trying not to move too much so that Julia wouldn’t either.

He made a pile of papers to throw out and a much smaller one of

things to keep. So far, the small pile contained two in-class notes

from Julia and a short story he’d read in AP English.

“Still on for the harbor today?”

“It’s the only thing that’s kept me sane,” Julia said, pulling away.

“Come on, why are we still here? I’m starving. Marroney didn’t offer

me any of his chalk.”


“I do not care about any of this,” Dave repeated. Liberated by the

absence of her touch, he walked over to the trash can and dragged

it toward his locker, then proceeded to shovel in the entirety of the

contents except for the books. A USB memory stick was wrapped

inside a candy wrapper, covered in chocolate, and he tossed that, too.

A few sheets remained tucked into the corners, some ripped pieces

stuck under the heavy history textbook.

But something caught his eye. One paper folded so neatly that for

a second he thought it may have been a note he’d saved from his mom.

She’d died when he was nine, and though he’d learned to live with

that, he still treated the things she left behind like relics. But when he unfolded the sheet and realized what he was holding, a smile spread

his lips. Dave’s eyes went down the list to number eight: Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.

He looked at Julia, recalling the day they’d made the list, suddenly

flushed with warmth at the thought that nothing had come between

them in four years. She was holding on to her backpack’s straps,

starting to get impatient. Everything about Julia was beautiful to

him, but it was the side of her face that he loved the most. The slope

of her neck, the slight jut of her chin, how the blue in her eyes popped.

Her ears, which were the cutest ears on the planet, or maybe the only

cute ones ever crafted.

“David Nathaniel O’Flannery, why are we still here?”

“How have we been best friends for this long and you still don’t

know my full name?”

“I know most of your initials. Can we go, please?”


“Look at what