“Geronimo Corkscrew! What kind of name is that? It sounds kinda vulgar”, she said.
“Which part of it sounds vulgar”, he enquired? “The Corkscrew part?”
She said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
He smiled. “That’s ok”, he said. “You can call me Geronimo or even Nimo.”
“Nimo! Haha” She threw back her head and laughed. A deep throaty laugh. He had never seen her laugh before. Her laughter transfixed him. The ripples of her hair, the arch of her neck, the slightly open mouth, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. It was a monumental effort for him to stop staring at her. He didn’t want to scare her off. It had been only a few minutes since they had met.
“You know Nemo was a clown fish” she continued, “and the thing about clown fish is that all are born male but can change into female.”
He agreed, “Hmm, that makes sense. I always thought I was androgynous in my head.”
She smiled agreeably and said, more to herself than to him, “I think I would rather call you Zoolander.”
“So long as you don’t ask me the “bun or the hot dog” question”, he mock admonished her.
In response, she mock glared at him with a single arched eyebrow.
It was great to finally meet someone with whom he could be his own, goofy, smart alecy self. Someone who would not take offense at his often-juvenile attempts at banter.
Geronimo and Zoe Granger had at first connected on Instagram. He had been liking her pictures for some time and then he had gathered enough courage to reach out to her and message her. Mercifully for Nimo, Zoe responded. Since then, they had been exchanging texts and an occasional phone call now and then. Nimo was convinced that it was time to take his chances. He proposed a meeting. Zoe agreed. Nimo made the trip across the town to meet her even though he was mostly skeptical about their chemistry in person.
His past experiences told him that the Internet was a great place to know people from a distance but meeting them in person sort of stripped them off their glamour, mystery and grandeur, and instead made them look naked and all too mortal. It was a case of too many expectations vs too little reality.
Nimo was bored of watching the same Instagram themes again and again. People flaunting their taut and fit bodies, doing some crazy acrobatic work outs, impossible stunts, food porn, exotic travel pics and what not. Everyone seemed be shouting out the same thing – look at me, I am so cool and desirable. Like me. Now.
It was all so made up and packaged for strangers’ consumption. Strangers who will probably never ever become even acquaintances.
And then one day he came across Zoe’s pictures. She was so starkly different from everyone else. Her pictures were refreshingly simple and honest for a change: she walking her dog, she enjoying a good laugh with her friends over coffee, she tending to her plants, she teaching math to her maid’s kids, she watching her favourite TV show with complete concentration or she just simply sitting in her balcony looking pensive. Zoe’s pictures made her so relatable. There were no hashtags with any of the pictures either. There was no screaming for attention. It was all so authentic, giving a glimpse of what she might be like in real life.
But Zoe was lovelier in person, very perceptive, wise beyond her years, smart without flaunting it and was indulgent of Nimo’s whacky sense of humour. He was a bundle of nerves, but she was so cool and unflappable. It seemed like she knew exactly what was going to happen next. He was beginning to think, could this be it? Could she be the girl he had been dreaming of? Then he quickly reprimanded himself with a shake of his head – C’mon now, don’t get ahead of yourself.
When Nimo told Zoe what he thought of her pictures and why he liked hers over others, she was nonchalant about it. She said there is nothing new about Instagram that humans have not done before. Even in earliest civilizations, humans have been recording their thoughts on cave walls. The only difference now is the reach is wider and more instant. To each his or her own, why be judgmental about what others like to do, she said. In his defence, all he could muster was, “Hey, I wasn’t being judgmental, that was just an opinion.”
Nimo soon discovered that it was the first of the many differences Zoe and he were going to have. Oceans vs mountains, going out on a Friday night vs staying home, Game of Thrones vs Modern Family, Ed Sheeran vs Sam Smith, PewDiePie vs Jenna Marbles, there were lots both didn’t agree on.
They were in a cab stuck in a nasty traffic jam on the way to watching a movie. Both were into movie nights and this was a movie both were looking forward to watch. Nimo was getting impatient, he hated missing the beginnings of movies. He stepped out of the cab to see what was holding up the traffic. In the distance, he saw a barrier put up by the traffic cops to waylay and penalize errant drivers. A couple of cops were busy rounding up the wrong doers, examining their papers and collecting fines. The whole thing was causing a mile-long jam. He hopped back in the cab and ranted to Zoe, “Look at these cops, they penalize people for breaking the traffic rules when they themselves are the first ones to break every single traffic law. And why can’t these dumb cops realize they are holding up the traffic? People might be in a hurry to reach some place important.”
Zoe was cool as a cucumber. She said, “Yeah but cops not following the traffic rules is no excuse for anyone to break them. Irrespective of what others are doing, you must follow the rules. Remember, a famous person once said, you must be the change you want to see in others. He retorted angrily, “And do you remember what happened to that famous person? He was gunned down.”
They reached the movie theater late and missed the first 10 minutes of the movie. Nemo was in a foul mood. The saving grace of the whole movie outing was the large bucket of caramel popcorn. Something both relished.
On the way back Nimo was quiet in the cab and lost in his own thoughts. There wasn’t much to say to Zoe. He had discovered it was one thing to politely acknowledge the differences between two people on some tolerant, philosophical, lets agree to disagree, level but it was another matter altogether to be in a relationship with someone who was cheese to your chalk.
Zoe moved closer to Nimo and gently tapped him on his arm. He turned his attention towards her. She enquired, “What’s the matter? Is everything ok?” He took a deep breath and explained, “Zoe, I liked how easy you were on Instagram. It was so simple and convenient. I liked your pictures and you liked mine, and that was all we needed at first. No words or expectations to make sense of our actions in person. We liked the same photos of people, nature and art. We shared the same taste for clever memes. I thought we made sense together on Instagram. But in person, I guess we don’t. None of that Instagram stuff makes any sense here.”
Zoe nodded and said, “Yes Nimo, we are two very different people. Probably, we spent all our time today on disagreeing and challenging each other but I like that you have your own independent thoughts. I wasn’t looking for someone who would echo back everything I say.” Then she paused for a moment, looked in to his eyes and said, “Aren’t lasting friendships all about appreciating similarities and accepting differences?”
Nimo felt a lot better. He sensed a smile spreading across his face. He moved closer to Zoe, reached out and held her hand. She grasped his right back. They both looked ahead.
Traffic was still dense on the road but atleast it was moving.