I’ve seen Joseph in the woods. He’s comfortable there. I’ve seen him running on a farm, a boy, young and playful, in the dusty dry summer fields. I imagine him growing up in North Carolina at the base of a mountain. In the hollow. The Appalachian Mountains. And I hear his voice as a man, the voices of mountain men. The kind that know things about river fish, and bleeding pigs, and building cabins on slanted mountain land.
His family’s cabin is familiar. It sits on a foundation of stacked stones in each corner. His father and uncles built this house and the barn with logs cut from trees that grew in the surrounding woods.
Maybe his grandparents own this land and his uncles and their families have houses over the hill. They work the farm together.
The creek runs behind the barn. I see Joseph as a grown man, stepping sideways, making his way down the mountainside. This part of the slope is awkward, but his feet find familiar ground. He’s following the sound of the creek. He doesn’t need the creek to find his way, but the ripple of the water is comforting. And then it changes. The water is louder, faster as he nears the river. His heartbeat climbs with the tempo of the water. He reaches the bank, and leans his weight against a tree. He watches the water crashing over dark boulders and rushing through the turns and chutes. He slides to the ground and covers his face with his hands.