Nerds on Film

December 16, 2014: Ronnie and Barry meet at a film showing at a local university.

New York

Big. Apple.



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Mood Music:

Universities do all kinds of weird things. Case in point: 'Science on Screen,' a weekly program at Empire State University's theater where a movie is screened and then a talk is given about the science therein. This week's movie was 'The Day of the Jackal' (1973), followed by a talk about the forensic science involved, and the methods the characters used — both to catch the criminals and the criminals' attempts to evade them.

And after the party, there's the afterparty. Or, well, what passes for an afterparty: a low-key affair with some drinks and library-voice conversation, mostly among professors, professionals, and students. ESU grad student (and part-time teacher) Ronnie Hautzig is there. Her choppy blonde hair is its usual mop, and she's wearing boho chic. Baggy sweaters and flowing ankle-length skirts: she looks like someone firmly ensconsed in the safety bubble of academia, as she checks out the tray of cheeses.

Despite having graduated some 5 years ago, Barry Allen might as well be mistaken for a freshmen. Of course, most freshmen don't wear cardigans over black t-shirts with blue jeans and Chuck Taylors-oh wait. That's pretty much all hipster wannabe freshmen.

He's eating from a small plate of vegetables and has a glass of wine in his other hand. So every time he wants to take some of the carrots or broccoli he must set the glass down awkwardly. This sort of thing continues about four times until he noticed Veronica.

"Hi," he says as they share the same bubble of space for a bit. "You tried the spicy dip? If you're into that, I mean."

Ronnie glances over at Barry as they do indeed share a bubble of space. "Oh! Uh, hi," she says, as if she was startled by the sudden appearance of Bow Tie Man. "I haven't, yet, um, actually. It's good? I mean, I'm into spicy. And dip. So the two, you know, combined…" Ronnie looks away and laughs quietly, definitely realizing how quickly that sentence jumped the tracks. She reaches over to take some corn chips and give the spicy dip a go. "Good movie, huh?"

"Yeah, you know I hadn't seen it before today. And it's cheaper than starting a Netflix account. But yeah, it was pretty good. I've found most of the movies from the 70s that I've seen have been pretty good. What did you think?" Barry asks with raised eyebrows.

"I really enjoyed it. I think Zinnemann is a really underrated director. I mean, he made all of these big movies, like 'The Sundowners,' and 'A Man for All Seasons,' but his career slowed down so much in the 70s that barely anyone talks about him today." Ronnie laughs. She's got kind of a nerdy laugh. Or maybe it's just self-conscious. Plus she's probably assuming Barry is another film student. "But I love movies like that, where it's all about investigation and forensics and the actual whys and hows of catching the bad guy… it's really cool to me, learning about that kind of stuff, even in a Hollywood fake kind of way, you know?" Says the fully trained SHIELD Agent. "Oh! I'm Ronnie, by the way. Are you in the… freshman class this year? I don't think I've seen you around…"

"Me?" Barry was going to respond to all that, but he can't when she gets to the end. "Freshman?" he exclaims with a laugh. "Gee, I hope they don't card me." He shakes his head in an exaggerated way. "Actually, no, I'm not a student here. I actually work in forensics and a couple of people down at the lab were angry with me for not having seen the movie. That's why I'm here."

Ronnie almost chokes on her water. "Oh! Oh, oh, I'm sorry, I just — you look so — so —" Ronnie purses her lips. "How about I just let that sentence drift off there and start over. So, uh… wow, I screwed that one up," she laughs, and rubs the back of her neck.

"Nah," Barry's smile is wider and he shakes his head with bright eyes. "It's totally okay. I get it all of the time. My name is Barry, by the way. Barry Allen. And right now I wish I knew more about movies from the 1970s, to make this less awkward for you." Another shake of the head but the smile never fades, "But I don't."

"Oh, we're first and last names? Well, in that case, I'm Ronnie Hautzig," she says, and offers a hand to shake. "I'm doing my PhD here. And I teach, too. So, I mean, yeah, I'm about as professional as you can be about being a movie nerd. But, uh, we can talk about other stuff too. Like, we could turn it around and talk about forensics so I'm the one who doesn't know anything?" She grins. And she'd also be lying about not knowing anything.

"Sorry," Barry says about the first and last names thing. "I guess I'm just used to it from work. It's still nice to meet you." He shakes the hand and his shoulders shrug, "I'd be happy to talk about that stuff, but only if you find it interesting. I mean what do you want to know?"

Ronnie only does a gentle grip, a total girly shake if there ever was one — but she's strong. Like, athlete strong. She must work out. "Oh, uh, wow, put me on the spot," she laughs. "What about… I don't know… bullet… testing? …I have no idea what I'm even talking about."

Barry shakes his head, "It's okay. Most of it isn't all that exciting. We can drop it. How long have you been here in New York?" He doesn't seem to be put off at all at the idea that she doesn't know much about his job.

"Oh, no, I didn't mean to… ha ha." Ronnie really does come off like someone whose mouth acts just a half step faster than her brain. "I've been here a little over a year. I grew up in California, actually. Rancho Cucamonga. It's sort of… near Los Angeles. Definitely not Hollywood, sadly, ha ha."

"Rancho Cucamonga? I've never been, but I've been to southern California a couple of times for work." Barry really means his work as the Flash. "Can't beat the weather. I take you came here specifically for the job. It's a heck of a school."

"Yeah, ESU has a great film program, it's one of the top ranked in the country. Plus, I mean… it's New York City!" Ronnie's eyes light up and she laughs. "I just… I don't know, living here is a big check on my bucket list. What about you? Are you from here?"

"No, I'm actually from Central City. I just moved to town, about…A month ago, I think? I transferred to NYPD and it's gone alright so far, I think." Nevermind that he has to travel back and forth to Central City everyday by foot in order to keep his identity a secret. But, that's sort of nothing new given that he's been sort of a national hero over the past year or so.

"Do you like it here?" Ronnie asks. "I mean, I've never been to Central City but… I mean, New York just seems like a big change from, well, everywhere." She brushes some dyed-blonde hair back behind her ear. Her dark brown roots are showing. Very showing.

Barry shrugs his shoulders, "To be honest I'm really not sure. I've been pretty busy and don't know a lot of people. So few, in fact, that I go to showings of movies at colleges I never attended. What about you?"

"You're talking to someone who's pursuing a doctorate in what amounts to sitting alone in the dark not talking to anyone," Ronnie says with a laugh. "I mean, pretty much everyone I know is connected to… this stuff, school, that kind of thing."

"Oh!" Barry nods knowingly, "You're probably super busy. I know how that can be. I mean, not saying I'm as busy as you. Not trying to be a topper and all that. Just saying I empathize."

"Well, I mean, yes and no?" A lot of Ronnie's 'busy' schedule is jumping around rooftops in spandex. But of course she doesn't mention that. "It's okay, you can be a topper on me if you want! I mean— oh, wow, that, yeah, okay, you talk now." Ronnie turns to take a glass of wine. "Clearly, I need this."

Barry shakes his head and his eyes close quickly and open just as quickly as he's clearly taken off guard. He's far too polite to make a joke about it or exploit it. He changes the subject quickly, "What do you want to do when you graduate? Teach? Make movies?"

Ronnie has a heroic swig of wine. "Well, right now I'm mostly focused on crawling into a hole somewhere and never speaking to another human again." She half-bites her lip, trying to keep from laughing in embarrassment. "Then after that, teaching would be nice. Writing. Contributing to the whole film studies thing, you know?"

Barry shakes his head, "I have this friend who does the same thing all the time. Don't worry about it. If I had a nickel for everytime I said something silly, I think I would have…" Pause. "Several bazillion nickels." He nods a few times, "Those sound pretty cool. I can see how that would be a really fun career. I think if I was in film I would stick to zombie movies. I'd be the George Lucas of Zombie movies."

"Zombie movies?" Ronnie asks with a grin, after another far more moderate sip of wine. "Well, if you have several bazillion nickels, you can probably afford to produce one. Though you if you want to be a big shot in zombie movies, there's a pretty high bar to clear. I mean, They Live alone…"

Barry chuckles, "I think I'll just stick to the real guts and gore." He gives an upwards nod, "What's your favorite thing to do in New York when you're not busy sitting in dark rooms or talking about the rising action of the Shining."

Ronnie's eyes widen. "Don't even joke," she says, mock-gasping, "I /LOVE/ The Shining. It's one of my, like… top three favorite movies. But I mean mostly I just, you know, I work on my doctorate, I teach… I like going for coffee… running… maybe, uh, you want to go for a run sometime? If you do that…"

"Go running?" Barry nods slowly, "You know I do a lot of running. I mean that would be awesome. I've got to warn you though," Barry grins at her. "I'm pretty fast. I mean, are you sure you can keep up?"

Ronnie laughs again, holding her wine in front of her mouth. "I dunno, I'm not a cop or anything… but I did track in college, so you're not talking to a TOTAL amateur. How about I just give you my phone number and you give me a text sometime?"

"Ooh!" Barry says doing a hand in pocket (the plate is set down) tilt lean thing. "A college track star? Well, maybe I spoke too soon." Barry nods, "Yeah, I think I can do that." He has to put down his wine now and begins to search for his phone."

Ronnie puts her phone down, and gets her phone out of her bag. "Tell you what, just tell me yours and I'll text you." She has an Android phone, for whatever conclusions can be drawn from that. Too hipster for a Starkphone? Or not hipster enough?

"816.553.5274," Barry says as he finally finds his phone too late. He doesn't get a whole lot of calls. Less these days. They're pretty much from either Joe West or his father in prison. This will save him the trouble of worrying about if he should actually text or not.

Ronnie sends a text from her phone: It just says "Hey :)" but it's enough to get her number across. She looks up, eyebrows raised, waiting for a telltale sign that Barry's received it.

Barry takes the phone and nods to her, sending back his own message. "Hey. Chinatown was a better movie than the Shining." He looks back up to her, "So, uhm. Yeah."

Ronnie's phone dings to tell her she has a message. She reads it, and looks up, shaking her head with a suppressed smile. "You," she says, "are a dangerous person." She laughs. "It was really nice meeting you, Barry. I gotta go grab one of the professors before they head out to the night but… text me sometime. Or call me. Or whatever."

"Same," Barry says with a nod. "I mean, it was nice meeting you. Not that you're a dangerous person." Barry could be the least dangerous person in the world. Ronnie could be one of the most underrated dangerous people he's ever met, judging by how she's dressed like his friend Jessica Ehret from college. "Have a good night."

Ronnie gives an excessively geeky laugh at the idea of being a dangerous person that pretty much puts her danger cred at zero. "You too, okay?" She starts to head off, but turns to look back over her shoulder: "And you were right about the spicy dip." Then she's off, to go flag down some ancient professor about some academic matter.

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