The Last Drink
by Stephanie Paterson

What I remember most about my seventeenth year was August twenty-eighth, one end-of-summer day. I had been drinking at a keg party in a cemetery with a mob of teenagers. It was night, and dark, and I had started to run to make my way home and I got lost among the headstones. It was a maze. When I made it out, I ran home in the middle of a busy street, losing borrowed jewelry, puking. I ran for over a mile with a belly full of booze. I remember feeling sick of being sick and making a decision: I will never do this again.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t remember much of my seventeenth year for obvious reasons. I recently read “Staying Alive”  by Mary Oliver in Upstream (2016). Oliver looks back at her younger days and says there were two blessings that saved her as a kid: the natural world and literature. The same is true for me and I’d add a third blessing: quitting drinking in 1988 at the age of 17.

PHOTO: The author at 17 after her high school graduation ceremony.


Stephanie Paterson
grew up in Portland, Maine, and now lives in Turlock, California, where she teaches at CSU Stanislaus. She’s a hiker-writer-runner-quilter. Find her on online at or on Twitter.