Cotton Xenomorph is a new literary journal produced with the mission to showcase new, and ecstatic art while reducing language of oppression in our community. We are dedicated to uplifting new and established voices while engaging in thoughtful conversation around social justice.

The Steve Nash of Near-Death Experiences

By Ethan Leonard

A full year, and I’ve yet to miss a laundry free-throw from my bed to the hamper.

After exactly 407 days it no longer feels like luck. “By now,” a voice enters my head, “it must be encoded in your cells,” and I believe it. I’m more alert; I speak clearly; I drink 90 percent less caffeine; I can’t sleep. My systolic pressure’s low the way the tide is low and lower before one crushing wave. My home state, they speculate, is also past due major disaster: a major earthquake, the eruption of Mt. Rainier, and so on.

Of course, nothing about Doomsday keeps me from my winning streak, but I try hard not to consider a landscape of blood funneling through craters, cracks, and unmined caves of glass. Years back, I was sick twice in one week after two years of perfect health. Recently out to my family, young, a little dumb, I was driven to the clinic by my stepdad to get tested for HIV. After, I was ordered to sweep our bathroom, bleach the linoleum, sprinkle corrosives in the toilet bowl and scrub. By the hour, there was nothing that remained of me.

These days I keep clean. My apartment remains swept and I leave my shoes at the door. The sheets are pulled tight over the mattress each morning. Books are arranged alphabetically. I do the dishes. I even bring myself to dust. The dead skin in sunlight shines. I breathe, and it scatters.

I can’t help but think my body at its best is partly composed of a flaking, unstable material.

The shot that commemorated the anniversary of my faux-basketball skill was a fade-away jump shot after an evening of harder-than-usual drinking with a coworker I decided to bring home. I faded too far, and almost lost everything in that moment to a guy I wanted to know but didn’t. The shirt, heavy with sweat from dancing, sailed perfectly into the basket as my feet gave out from beneath me. I slipped against the back of a rolling chair, then hit the floor. My thundering clumsiness paired with that beautiful man’s honking cackle shook the whole apartment. I braced for the worst. Instead, I was greeted by a hand that helped me to the bed, and a gentle kiss on my injured shoulder. By tomorrow it would be sore, perhaps bruised. Until then I lay awake, my heart thrumming relentlessly as the warm, sleeping heave of his breath on my neck flushed my cheeks.

Ethan Leonard is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire. Their work is forthcoming or can been found in MoonPark Review, Five on The Fifth, Reservoir, and others. They tweet inconsistently at @autonomousbagel.


On My Deathbed