It has been more than a week since the showdown at the Scoop. The Scoop is still closed, and the Rhymist is still nowhere to be seen.
What happened? I will explain.
At 8am last Tuesday, the Uniformists trooped into the Scoop. We each took a folding chair from the stack, unfolded it in front of the table, and sat down.1
We queued in front of the hot water machine. Each Uniformist took an identical cup from the counter, put in a bag of English Breakfast Tea, and then filled the cup with hot water. We each took one cookie (3cm in diameter, with 5 chocolate chips). We recognized one of our number behind the counter. He greeted us.
“How has your morning been?” he asked.
“Good. I woke up tired, but then remembered that today is the first Uniformist Day at the Scoop, and was heartened. I look forward to your cookies.”
Three other Scoopers sat behind the counter, watching us or reading The Philosophocler. Two of them also wore U-shirts. They looked slightly uncomfortable. They were not regulars (besides their shirts, they were non-uniform), but rather wore the shirts to make us feel welcome. We let them know our appreciation.
“Thank you for making today Uniformist Day,” we told them, “Thank you for the tea. You look good in that U-shirt. Please feel free to join us.”
The last Scooper wore a plain gray shirt, but the black U was absent, and the shirt was the wrong shade of gray. Her hair showed signs of having been dyed. (It’s not so easy to remove signs of Creativism.) She ignored our greetings.
“How are the cookies?” we asked each other.
“They are delicious. The texture is consistent.”
“How is the tea?”
“I have not tasted it yet, as it is hot. However, it smells fragrant.”
Un walked up to the chalkboard. It was empty—all the drawings of cartoon characters, improvisational poems, quotes urging readers to “go their own way” or “follow their hearts”, quadrilingual ramblings, and challenging mathematical equations having been erased by the Scoopers before we came. Un wrote in large letters, “WE ARE ALL HUMAN.”
Finally we sat down.
Before we started drinking our tea, however, we heard a cheerful creaking of floorboards, and found that a girl in red, holding a piece of bread (rather than a cookie), had joined us. In her other hand she held a mug, on which sat a ladybug.
“Heya,” she said, “I said I’d be back, to help you with what y’all lack.”
Un stood up. After the disaster during Monday lunch, he was prepared.
“Today is Uniformist day at the Scoop. You are welcome to join us if you wear a U-shirt and use the standard sentences from your complimentary copy of the Uniformist Guide to Conversation. Otherwise, we kindly request that you leave.”
She pulled up a stool (rather than a chair) beside Un and put her bug-mug down.
“You aren’t the only person who has a say,” she said, “I have a right to stay, unless everyone here votes nay.”
Un snatched the girl’s mug and took a sip. We looked at him in surprise.
“Aha! I know it!” Un said, “The Scoopers gave you cold tea!”
Being offered “cold tea” by the Scoopers is punishment for a severe breach of courtesy. It is a signal that one is no longer welcome at the Scoop.
In a smooth motion, the girl took Un’s cup and drank from it.
“As you took my brew, I presume your cup is now mine, while my mug belongs to you. This is strange, but I’ll agree to this exchange. But now you see, you are the one who has drunk cold tea, not me.”
Un’s face turned red.
He stood up, and thirty Uniformists pushed back their chairs and stood up. Alarmed, the girl in red took her slice of bread and Un’s cup, got up, and backed away.
We fanned out in a circle around her. Each one of us held a small U-shirt in our hands.
“Join us or leave,” Un said, moving towards her with the U-shirt held in front of him.
“Let me leave in peace,” she said, “I will depart to Deepsea Teas.”
Deepsea Teas? That was the cafe with booths separated by fish tanks of deep-sea creatures.
Was she “jellyfish girl”?
The thought washed away my morning Uniformization.
I remembered how Lisa, the girl I had talked to so earnestly at lunch one day, had tricked me into thinking she had been the 3am announcer for PHSS, even though her voice was harsh rather than mellifluous, and she was dismissive, rather than appreciative, of life’s many mysteries. Thanks, however, to Junali’s reporting I had learned of her trickery from this very blog, and also learned that the radio announcer’s real name is Pearl.
Just as she reached the door, I broke the Uniformist ranks.
“Before you flee, beautiful girl, tell me—is your name Pearl?”
“That is a beautiful name—but it is not mine to claim.”
I did not lose hope. After all, Lisa could have lied in the blog post, to throw me off further! The rhyming girl had a quality of speech I have seen in few Philosophoclers. Many speak as if reading a memorized script, or with their tongues like automatic animals disjointed from their brains. Few speak as if they are following a beautiful road inside their head that only they can see.
“Grant me a wish—tell me, are you into jellyfish?”
“They are majestic creatures no doubt. But they’re full of stingers which can give you a lethal clout. I prefer animals less sadistic… and a little more pacifistic.”
My heart fell. But if I could just explain luminescent jellyfish to her…
“You! Get back here!” Un called.
So used was I to obeying the Uniformists that my feed started walking backwards. But I made myself stop.
“Let me tell you a memory I hold quite dear—this will explain my unexpected query. One night I turned on the radio and heard a voice extraordinary. With mellifluity and sibilence, a certain Pearl described the chemistry of of deep-sea luminescence—her voice was music, the quintessence. But soon it faded, like all beauty, evanescent. Since then I have journeyed far and wide, but never until you have I met someone so… rarefied. Speak that thread inside your head, and I will follow in your tread!”
A silence followed. Then, to my surprise, several other Uniformists stepped forward.
“What is your secret? I too want to have your spirit!”
“Tell me what to do, so I can rhyme as well as you!”
“The other Uniformists leer and sneer, but I will protect you, no fear!”
“Please don’t mind Fron, he’s a little obsessed. But with your presence, we are blessed!”
Just then, the door opened. Fifteen people entered, all clad in U-shirts, and stood behind red-bread girl. However, the U-shirts all had a blue “2” next to the U, so that they read “U2”.
“How come you are U-shirted,” I asked, “But your shirts look strangely perverted?”
“That’s because we were tired of Uniformism—so we created a schism!”
“We’re not Uniformists—we’re Rhymists!”
“I didn’t know you had a group,” said one of the Uniformists, “can we too be part of the loop?”
“Yes, come with us to rhyme, and you’ll have a good time!”
“Please take a brochure; see all the benefits that you can procure!”
“Leave the Uniformist confines—we’ll give you some fresh new lines!”
“Rhyming is just the start—many more colorful ways to live we will impart!”
“Heart’s content! Time well spent! Things to invent! Leave behind torment. Ascent!”
Several of the Uniformists started to walk away with the “Rhymists.”
Then I saw two faces among the group that I realized. “Wait! Don’t take the bait! These people are not so great. They are Creativists!”
I pointed at Lukko. “My former roommate, who I have come to hate. Monstrous things he does create, which he uses to intimidate and infuriate!”
I pointed at Lisa. “And that is Lisa who one day pretended to be the jellyfish girl who so captured my heart. But she was playing a dirty trick on me, feeding me lies for the sake of art!”
My fellow Uniformists backed me up.
“You’re not a Rhymist. You’re a two-timist!”
(One of the Creativists spoke up, “Lukko and Lisa, is that true? This isn’t what Creativists supposed to do!”)
“We won’t join you!” another Uni yelled.
We back away from the Creativists.
“What’s up! Argh, I mean, what a fuckup! I should have put on some makeup!” Lisa said.
“Well, now that our cover is gone, we might as well have some fun!”
Lukko took off his U2-shirt, which had been covering my monstrosity. All the other Creativists followed suit, and we were accosted by an explosion of color, glitter, glitter glue, metal hooks, plastic eyes, pipe cleaners, bubble-letters, random quotes, beads, buttons, paint, felt, sew-on-pockets, cardboard, cotton balls, flower petals, acorn caps, last autumn’s leaves, feathers dropped from birds in flight, and coconut shells.
Lukko unpacked several canisters of paint from his bag.
“If they won’t become Creativists of their own free will, then colors must spill!”
Creativists scooped up handfuls of color and charged us. They ran up to Uniformists and dabbed the colors onto Uniformist faces, hair, necks, and shirts. Uniformists with rainbow-colored faces chased after the Creativists, who defended themselves with drumsticks and tambourines. Chairs overturned. Hot tea sloshed through the air.
One of the Scoopers was busy shooting photographs—photographs which would appear in the Wednesday issue of The Philosophocler. Another Scooper—the one with the fake gray shirt—had taken rainbow-colored cookies out of the oven, climbed over the counter, and dunked her hair in paint with the desperation of a thirsty baboon.
I quickly hid below a table, and found that I had been joined by several Uniformists and Creativists, as well as the single true Rhymist.
“This is causing me a lot of stress. Can you tell your Creativists to stop this mess?” said a boy I later learned was Timoo.
“Stop! War is destructive, not creative!” said the girl holding his hand, who I later learned was Rudii.
No one listened.
“I wanted everyone to have fun with rhyme,” the Rhymist said sadly, shaking her head. “But all I did was cause tons of crime.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said. “Campus security will come, and charge the guilty with assault.”
I looked around at the people—Uniformists and Creativists alike—gathered under the table.
“Let them fight their petty rivalry,” I said, “We’ll start our own philosophy. Will you lead us, oh rhyming princess—after, of course, we make our egress?”
The Rhymist put down her cup and bread, and smoothed her shirt of red. She stood up and walked forwards.
“That’s the wrong way!” Rudii yelled. “That’s into the fray!”
“I must remedy what I started,” she said in a faraway voice, “For Moses, the waters have parted.” She walked into the melee.
We lost sight of her.
“I come in the name of peace. Let all hostilities cease!”
“Shut your beaks, the Rhymist speaks!”
“The Rhymist is a two-timist!”
“Stop fighting head to head, let’s play a word game instead!”
“Watch where you’re throwing that color!”
“Everyone, stop! An unarmed Rhymist’s in our midst, we must desist!”
Uniformists and Creativists stopped. Raised fists were dropped.
We breathed a sigh of relief.
“Where is the Rhymist? Where is the Rhymist?”
“Rhymist, we have stopped. Please speak to us!”
We strained our ears, but did not hear a single line. The only remnant of the Rhymist was the cup and bread she had left with us under the table.
The door burst open. Campus security had arrived. “Everyone out,” a policeman said. “The Scoop is now closed.”
The usual Scoop chairs are one-of-a-kind and unreliable, as they were either made by Creativist artisans, or purchased or otherwise acquired on whim by Creativist-aligned Scoopers. The folding chairs, on the other hand, are made in bulk by an unassuming company called Chair Makers. Even for inanimate objects, uniformism is correlated with goodness. (Footnote by Un.)↩