ursa major

Ursula sat back and sipped her coffee. It was cool and dark, and she let herself melt into the folding chair, her breath evening, until a man stood up and cleared his throat.

"Er, yeah. I'm Jake. Ah, I'm here, ten months clean and sober." People clapped and the man jerked his head up, glanced around the room, and quickly looked back to the floor. "Well, yeah. My story is simple, ah, I was just running. Running from my history, my family, ah, I was running and hiding, that's all it was. And drinking and using helps me to hide."

Ursula lifted her coffee cup to her mouth, took the last sip, looked in her styrofoam cup searching for more, took one more sip, sucking in the drops of coffee left, looked again and sighing deeply, placed the cup on the floor next to her chair. She straightened back up, tucked her hair behind her ears, and folding her arms across her chest, she looked at the man who was still speaking. He was tall but slightly slumped, wearing black jeans, long, grey ponytail bright against his black t-shirt, wizened wisps of hair escaping the tight cinch in a mess around the temples of his wire glasses.

"... And I don't know why I said that. But I had this moment, you know? Like somehow I knew, it got through, after all these years, like, ah, I knew I had to stop pretending. To stop hiding. And, you know, the biggest part of that was getting sober, stopping hiding behind booze and pills."

Ursula slammed to her feet, knocking her chair aside with a clatter. She swayed for a moment, then pulled her pocketbook tightly across her body and walked with resolution past all of the questioning eyes and the hey-are-you-okay-ladys and the arms reaching for her. Past all of that and out the door she strode, hesitating long enough to re-orient herself to the bright sunlight and her location there on Oliver Way.

She headed right and walked toward Penn Avenue and her office.

* * * * *

Tripping over the threshold as she stumbled out of Primanti Brothers tavern, Ursula turned and glared back inside with hostility. "Don't let the door hit ya on the way out, there, lady," griped a patron in a black and gold Steelers bomber jacket.

"Dammit, oh whatever." Ursula looked around at nearly abandoned Market Square, squinting against the darkness. One person was sitting, or perhaps sleeping, on a bench, and about a dozen pigeons milled around, picking french fries off the brick sidewalk. "Don't pigeons sleep? Pigeons, why are you still awake?" She stomped toward the pigeons but her clogs made such a racket in the still night that even the boldest of all city birds flew off. "Aw, pigeons..."

She focused again. "Ah, I wanna see the fountain, I wanna." Ursula headed out of Market Square toward the Point, the city park with the huge fountain where two rivers met to create a third at the Golden Triangle. Dodging traffic crossing Stanwix Street, she considered stopping at the Hilton to use the bathroom but changed her mind. "Ah, no time, no time, I just wanna see the water." Ursula had forgotten what a long walk it was from the hotel all the way to the tip of the point, where the fountain was. She kicked off her clogs and skipped, holding one in each hand, then sang loudly as she passed under the tunnel ("I'm looking over a four leaf clover that lies on the kitchen floor..."), then skipped some more.

Finally reaching the fountain, Ursula slowed down, gazing out over the Ohio River. It was a clear, starry night; she left her shoes at the fountain's side and crept to the very edge of the pavement. The roar of the fountain behind her mesmerized. The stars ahead, the lights at the stadium across the Allegheny from where she stood, the ripples on the water all spoke to her. Come out, come out, Ursula, no need to hide, no more. No more. She searched the sky for her bear, her guide, was that who was speaking to her? You've been sleeping, little bear, deep in hibernation. Now it is time to come out and be yourself. But the city lights obscured the celestial figures.

She heard him coming before he spoke. She turned around and gathered her shoes, noting his badge. "It's okay, officer, I'm going home now."

"What are you doing all the way down here tonight, miss? Are you okay? You looking for something?"

"Yes, I was, I was looking, thank you for asking," Ursula met the police officer's eyes and gave him a light smile. "I found it. I found myself again. It was me." She dropped her clogs to the pavement and slipped her feet inside. She grabbed his arm for balance as she stood up tall.

"I am tired of hiding."
My prompt in this week's Indie Ink writing challenge was from rrrett/femmefauxpas, who asked me to write about "she was tired of hiding."

If you're interested, you can read earlier chapters of this story here: (1) maybe for orange juice, (2) gridlock, and (3) cherry, smithfield & oliver