by Ashley Hutson
In the picture of my heart’s desire, I am watching “Three’s Christmas,” the fourteenth episode of the second season of Three’s Company, and the only holiday episode of my favorite series.
I am watching it as myself at age 20, my will at its strongest, my hair still dark.
And with me are my grandparents, whom I have wished alive.
And my mother and father and sister are there, too, plucked from a moment of laughter at a family dinner two decades ago.
And my husband and my cat are beside me, flawless in their current iterations.
And near my husband sits his grandpap, his life restored, because I yearned to grant the one I love the greatest gift.
And the Christmas tree is in its corner, trimmed and glowing.
And two dear friends arrive, brothers, and behind them are long-lost friends from before the time of babies and divorce and adult concerns, all lifted from a bygone New Year’s Eve party that was laced with song.
And another friend, who was dead but is alive again.
On the TV screen, Jack Tripper, Janet Wood, and Chrissy Snow decorate a fat pine tree w
ith popcorn garlands and gingerbread men. They are draped in a golden version of the 1970s. Earth tones. Warm, cozy light. Potted ferns. Janet and Chrissy follow Jack as he walks into the kitchen and lifts a dish out of the oven, and the air shudders with a wavy dream.
Then he turns to the camera. Toward us, the watchers. He steps through the television screen and into my living room, and Janet and Chrissy follow.
Everyone happily greets the trio, and Jack holds out the dish, smiling. He is alive for the first time but does not comprehend it. He is the best kind of alive.
We take his offering. Somewhere a radio plays, and the air outside is hard and cold. Down the hallway a room is waiting, warm and empty, to receive a secret visit—a place to be alone and unmissed, to enjoy the distant, drowsy murmur of loved ones just beyond the door.
Night gathers outside the window, and I go to join it. Looking in, I can see all the gifts bestowed, every person made new. I am among them. Each of us has traveled far, and some of us will not return. We are glittering.
Ashley Hutson's work has appeared in several places in print and online, including Electric Literature, SmokeLong Quarterly, matchbook, Split Lip Magazine, Fanzine, and Wigleaf. She lives in rural Maryland. Read more at aahutson.com.