The Last Addict

Sam Asher

He spends his time being interviewed on talk shows like The Panel and Party Hour and Cactus Jack and he does his best not to cry on TV, at all, but he always does, and if he doesn’t the crowd gets irritated, like they’ve been duped out of something—

(Explain “Rehabs!”

Rehabs: Before the Cure, there were many of us with afflictions of the soul and they went like, something like, Everything inside of you felt like you were born corroded, and you hurt so much, so often, that you looked for anything you could to pull the sting from your veins, you know? (“No!”)  and when you found it, whatever it was, you thought it was your friend, your God (“Sharp intake of breath!”) and it was the solution, the medicine, until one day it became another poison, and you realized that and you felt so betrayed, by it, and the world that had let you come into it broken, sizzling like frayed wires and fried eggs, and so you thought that you would die, but instead you were sent to a room, within a larger room, with other rooms around it, and you read from books with other corrupted people until you’d convinced the healthy ones, and sometimes yourself, that this time, when you went out, everything had been mended, so they gave you your pants back, and your shoes.)

And then people want to know, “Did the rehabs work?!”

So he explains that they were for profit, and anything for profit will always need consumers, and everyone in the audience nods at the sageness of that, and then continues staring at him, waiting for him to bleed out, or fall down, or weep uncontrollably until it’s time for them to go home.

“What are you addicted to?” they ask.

“Everything,” he shrugs. “Basically absolutely everything.”

The last addict in the world is given one day a week to himself. He walks from 152nd to a community center on West 71st, arranges green plastic chairs in mostly a loop, fans cookies out onto a blue plastic plate, and hangs posters. Mostly then he hopes that someone else might show up, someone new, maybe, someone impossible from his past, preferably. It’s light outside when he starts, but a ream of fluorescent blue-lights are always on overhead. For most of the day his eyes are closed, while he remembers when the room was full of chatter, and laughter, and sobbing, and then he too sobs, and people gather outside in their thousands with their cameras, and by the time it’s dark he’s stacked the chairs in one corner of the room, and thrown the cookies away, and finished the coffee, and he takes the subway home with his hood up, whispering the names of all his dead friends.

(“But everyone is better off, we know we”re better off! When all the addicts died the world was free from their grief, their smells, and sorry blue books!”

And he nods and says, “that’s true, but I knew them all, some of them, anyway, and I knew their children, and their dogs, and I used to sit in diners with them and hold their hands, and answer their calls at 2 a.m., and-”

“But you admit the world is better now?”

“Yes,” he swallows. “Yes, I can see that.”)

The last addict knew another of the last addicts for a little while, a woman whose hair was exquisitely brown, like milky tea, and they talked about the Cure a lot, as you’d expect. She wanted to know, often, why it had happened, and why it hadn’t happened to them, and the problem was he had wanted to know too.

“An act of God?” she guessed. “Like an ark situation? God meant to drown us all, but a few of us clung on.”

He shrugged. “Sure. Maybe.”

“But what do you think?”

“Why weren’t we cleansed?”


He took a moment. A beam of light fell across them from the window beside her bed, along her arm and toward the door.

“A curse?”

She laughed at that, and they kissed, and liked the way the other one smelled, until one day she realized, (so she had written to him) that obviously their kind was not meant to exist, and that she was sorry, and he kept the paper she’d written that on for a very long time, desperately long, until it was taken from him, and put in a museum.

People eventually view the Last Addict as something more like a clueless houseguest in their vigorous utopia, wondering when he might get the, you know, the hint, and really he doesn’t mind, because as years pass he gets less attention, even gets a sort of attention-opposite when people try to pretend he isn’t there. He waits twenty blissful minutes in a coffee shop for a barista to notice him, and when she does, a pretty girl with purple hair, she goes pale, and confused, like she’s seen a giant panda, an apatosaur.

In his free time, as TV works dries up, and attention wanes, the Last Addict remembers old hobbies, plays the bass, cooks, visits roadside oddities. On the news one evening a pale, limp-chinned conservative type is denying he ever existed. The Last Addict turns the volume up and listens to him, to a haranguing jeremiad on the Myth of the Addicts—

Where were all these Rehabs?


How could anyone be so reliant on an anything?


Pretend, crazy, disillusioned freaks who used to sit in circles, and think they were in a community when in truth they were just alone, simply insane. And there’s a feature in the Paris Review by a writer the Addict used to love which said, of course, that addicts had existed, in the dark ages, but were they truly relevant anymore, had there ever been any truly great ones.

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Image by Leroy Skalstad from Pixabay