Inside UVic’s secret bathroom cult
Raindrops rolled down the foggy window of my second-floor perch as I peered out at the open umbrellas weaving through the quad, obscuring the figures underneath, nothing but legs. It was a melancholy February day — grey and bleak, still not quite spring — and I scoured my mind for any reason not to turn back to the blank verse of Paradise Lost cracked open before me. A heavy sigh escaped my lips just before my prayers were answered by a gurgle in my gut.
I glanced quickly to see if I was alone as I ducked into my favourite bathroom stall on campus. The facilities were empty. Privacy. Bliss. The “poop closet,” as one vandal has labelled it on the inside wall, is offset from the rest of the stalls. In its own alcove, surrounded by walls on three sides, it is one of the best places on campus to poop.
But that day, something was different. The seat was warm. I turned my gaze to the wall on my right, riddled with graffiti that is worthy substitute for the Sunday paper: unprompted anti-communist rhetoric; an assertion that “OEDIPA WAS HERE”; a request for someone clever to “prove by Induction on n,” with a response scrawled in pencil over a dozen square inches; a tic-tac-toe game in progress, played by 3 different writing utensils, in which X is guaranteed to win.
But that was all there before. My eyes drifted to some new additions, my mind already churning through questions.
“The shy poopers throne. — The shy pooper king.”
“Shy poopies sample tested for bacterial coliforms every 1st of the month.”
Most enigmatic of all, though: “Shy Pooper Cult Meetup every Sunday @ 8:30 a.m. in the pooper throne room.“
The writing is all clearly from different hands, and I knew then that this wasn’t just one man asserting his throne. This is a community. A network of bowel movements connecting us on the same seat. I had never vandalized a bathroom stall before, but my body seemed to move before I could consider the weight of my actions. All of a sudden, there in glistening blue Sharpie, was my anonymous email address requesting contact with the shy pooper cult. The next meetup was in five days. I needed to be in.
I had a bite on day two. An anonymous email. “To me the shy pooper throne is the most sacred place in all of Victoria,” Shypooper64 wrote. “Like the poopers that inhabit the closet, it is shy in and of itself.” He waxed poetic and I can’t blame him. But I wasn’t searching for poetics.
No Google search, no Reddit raid, and no Twitter trawl revealed any answers. I stood in the poop closet that Saturday afternoon, wondering if any of it was even real, or merely a practical joke played by a higher being. A new poem was scrawled on the wall.
A mystical being
of the magical fruit
It may have begun
With a single toot
But somewhere inside
A void was filled
By something known so privately
Here he is
Here he has been
Low an behold
THE SHY POOPER KING
The penmanship matched no other messages. Maybe I didn’t give Shypooper64 enough credit. “When you enter that small crevice you also enter a world much bigger than yourself,” he had written later in his email. “You enter a community of like-minded individual poopers.”
On Sunday morning, at 8:30 a.m., I stood outside the library doors. The rain hadn’t stopped all week, and the sun was barely beginning to touch the world with its light. If the shy pooper cult met, it was at a time when not even God could see them.
The doors, of course, were locked. The library opens at 10 a.m. on Sundays. I knew that, and yet, I hoped. How are they getting in? How many of them are there? Does security know, and if so, why haven’t they been stopped? Maybe they’re in on it?
OEDIPA WAS HERE. I kept thinking back to that phrase, the first piece of graffiti I found scrawled on that wall this semester. Was it a warning? A cry for help? Maybe both. Oedipa Maas, Pynchon’s legendary protagonist from The Crying of Lot 49. A regular woman, just like any of us, falling into a conspiracy way beyond a citizen’s limited mind.
After 10 a.m., as I sat at one of the desks watching the entrance to the men’s bathroom, a figure emerged. Sticking out of his pocket was the clip of a Sharpie, and under his eyes, staring into mine, a knowing smile. Could it have been him? The shy pooper king? I wasn’t sure. In a world where all we have to go off of is our word and the colour of our pen, it could be any of us. I nodded at him, and he nodded back, undoubtedly asking himself the same questions about me.
“You could waste your life that way,” Oedipa’s friend tells her as she goes mad in the search for answers, “and never touch the truth.”
But truth, I now know, is merely hope’s killer. Call me a coward, but I’m abandoning my search. Instead, I stand on the edge of the abyss and look in, admiring its beauty and pitying the fools who dive deeper.
The king doesn’t need to be found. Rather, his anonymity must be preserved. It plants seeds towards a brighter future, in which any of us — perhaps even all of us — could be the shy pooper king, and His will is clear: that we treat all of our seatmates with the same reverence that we would offer Him.