The Girl on the Swing
A little blonde girl, all of 9 years old, sits alone on a swing in the playground. Her dress is black with little blue and red birds and dirty marks that she knows will make her mother growl later. Her long hair is tied back into a ponytail, with a straight fringe and longer wispy bits around the edges that blow around in the hot summer breeze.
Matilda looks around the playground and wonders what is wrong with her. Her brown eyes roam over at the empty play equipment and she reminisces about the last time she had played with her friends in this sacred space.
She used to play with Sarah on the merry-go-round.
She used to play with Peter in the woods.
She used to climb all over the jungle gym with Alex and Sam.
Now she was alone. Again. Because no one understood her.
Matilda didn’t know why she was the way she was. Her parents hadn’t taught it to her. The teachers hadn’t encouraged it. The Doctors said it wasn’t quite normal. But since she could remember, she has always known this to be who she is.
There were things inside Matilda’s head that drove her crazy.
She called them her Demons. The Demons that lived inside her head. They talked. Sometimes quietly, just the tiniest whisper in the distance. Sometimes they roared so loud she clamped her hands to her ears in an attempt to stop the noise.
But they never stopped.
So she continued to live with the fight inside her mind.
A teenage blonde girl, all of 16 years old, sits on a swing in the playground. Her denim jeans ripped at the knees and hems, her black top hanging loosely from her body. Her blonde hair is cropped into a short bob with a jagged fringe and is caught on the cool autumn breeze.
Matilda’s big brown eyes look around the playground and she remembers the youth she spent in this neighbourhood.
She had her first kiss just before 8pm on a Tuesday night under the lamp post that stands guard at the entrance to the playground.
She ran into the woods in shame and embarrassment on her way home from school one afternoon when she got her first period, not knowing what it was at the time, and bleeding through her jeans.
She had sat on this same swing the first ever time she had smoked pot.
But the Demons still haunted Matilda. She was still the same as she was when she was 9. Still the same as she was for as long as she could remember. The darkness ran so deep in Matilda’s veins she wondered if her blood would run black in her deepest depths.
The Demons taunted her.
The Demons teased her.
The Demons tortured her.
But one Demon comforted her.
Matilda looked down at her wrists and saw the white scars of where she had tried to cut them out herself. All but one. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how many different ways she tried, Matilda could not extract the Demons from her head.
So instead they grew, and multiplied, and continued to whisper in her ear sometimes, and scream down her internal walls at other times.
She was tired of fighting.
She was tired of struggling.
Matilda was tired.
A young blonde lady, all of 23 years old, sits on a swing in the playground. Her navy tracksuit pants cling to her body, her red jumper is cold and wet. Her hair is cropped to only a few inches in length and is plastered to her head in the cold winter rain.
Matilda opens her brown eyes and cannot tell by the feel of her skin where the tears end on her face and the rain begins. She had been sitting on the swing crying for hours. The storm blew in only about an hour ago, and was already easing its wicked blast.
It was all she could do to feel.
Matilda had been numb for so long now she had forgotten what it was to feel.
All she knew was the Demons now.
Their grotesque faces.
Their claws that scratch and scratch at unhealed and scabbed wounds.
One Demon of comfort was no longer enough. He could not hold back the onslaught of the army of destruction and depression inside her head.
He could not help her.
He could not save her.
Matilda needed to escape the battle.
She had been fighting this battle for as long as she could remember. Since before she was 16 sitting here thinking. Since before she was 9 sitting here thinking.
Her body, her mind, and her soul demanded respite.
There was only one option she could think of that would end her suffering.
To end it all.
A blonde woman, all of 31 years old, sits on a swing in the playground. Her flowy skirt falling around her ankles, her white top clinging to her womanly body. Her hair is longer and fuller than it has ever been, hanging in beautiful ringlets around her pretty face and tumbling down her shoulders.
Matilda raises her brown eyes to look at the small child playing in the sand.
Matilda revelled in the joy that was merely 4 years old, dirty from play, and giggling like mad.
Together they played on the merry-go-round.
Together they explored the ‘big scary woods’ one sneaky step at a time.
Together they would climb as high as they could on the jungle gym.
When little Heather smiled at her mother or laughed, the Demons would be hushed.
When little Heather grabbed her mother’s finger, the Demons would cower away.
When little Heather slept like the angel she was, the Demons would hide for the light and love that filled Matilda’s mind.
All but one.
One Demon stayed. One Demon wept at the beauty. One Demon held her hand when she didn’t know if she could make it through the screaming nights.
One Demon comforted Matilda now, as it had done all her life.
One Demon had taught her how to tame the rest.
This playground lived in her head now as well as down the street from her home. She would wait until her Demons were at their weakest and one by one she would invite them to play with her.
It was when she woke years ago from her attempt to end her life that she realized she can’t win the fight against them.
Theodore, the comforting Demon, took her in his arms as she laid on the bed in the hospital room and promised to keep her safe from the other monsters while she healed.
He told her she could fight against the hordes of darkness inside her head for as long as she wanted. And continue to lose.
Or she could learn to live with them.
So her darling and caring Theodore, with his great big curly horns, and his long clawed fingers and toes, curled himself around the broken and battered Matilda and held her tight for what felt like endless days and nights until she was better.
Theodore taught her not to fight.
Theodore taught her not to block out their voices.
Theodore taught her to listen.
And love her Demons.
For no matter what the struggles would be in her life, no matter how big the losses she would endure, her Demons would always be there. With her and for her. If only she would open her mind to them.
So Matilda took the playground of her youth and created it into a safe space in her mind where she could ‘play’ with her Demons one by one.
Matilda gave them names.
Matilda gave them time.
Matilda gave them love.
And in return, the Demons have her
And as always, Theodore gave her Comfort.