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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Out Of The Closet

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/23/2024
Posted: 3/31/2006
Page Views: 4605
Topics: #AlienAbductions #GrandCanyon #WhitewaterRafting
How the government guy who was supposed to be 'watching out for me' outed me as an abductee.

When I awoke Wednesday morning I wasn't at my best. My neck still throbbed; my head ached and I generally felt like I'd have had to rally to die. I downed a couple more Tylenol #3s (brought in case of migraine), gathered my stuff together, and returned to the main encampment.

Breakfast helped: Eggs made to order, bacon and/or sausage, pancakes and some dark brown sludge they called "river coffee". I'm not a coffee drinker but I had some that morning. I felt I needed all the help I could get.

And after we ate I did feel better. So I hunted up Robby and mentioned that Turtle hadn't let me row the day before.

"You'll have to cut him some slack," Robby said. "This is his first oar trip. He knows the Canyon real well, but he used to drive motorized rafts and you don't have to talk to anyone on those things—no one could hear you if you tried. So he's probably not used to relating to passengers."

"Well, just tell him to let me row, and I'll ride with him again and try to get him to relax," I offered.

It's customary to change boats each day, to experience the Canyon with different guides and have a chance to interact with other passengers. Nevertheless I rode with Turtle again. This time my fellow passengers were Lynn and Walt, the older couple, and Liz, the glamorous editor.

SS Minnow

It felt like sailing on the Minnow with the Howells and Ginger.

I gave Turtle an hour, then asked if I could row. This time he turned the oars over to me immediately.

Whitewater river rafting has become quite popular, but most trips are not like Grand Canyon trips. One-day whitewater rafting adventures usually put six or eight people in a raft, with a boatman in back; all the passengers row, while the boatman shouts directions and steers. On Grand Canyon trips, which last a week or two, we sit four passengers to a boat, with the guide sitting in the middle in what is called an oar frame. He or she rows while the rest of us relax, doze or chat or, in a rapid, hold on for dear life. Sitting in the back requires extra care. We must not sit on the very back of the raft in a rapid, because that's called the "ejection seat". A person sitting there is very likely to be hurled into the air at forty miles an hour, only to come back down into the river right in front of the boat. Once, we were told, a passenger flew into the guide, knocking him forward and breaking his nose against the oar frame! So, if we were sitting in back through a rapid, we were careful to hunch as far forward as possible. And, of course—always—we held on tightly to the ropes.

Me, rowing

So by "turning over the oars to me" I mean that Turtle took my place in the back and I sat in the center of the oar frame, each hand gripping a twelve-foot oar. Since we basically drift with the river, the oars are used more for steering than propulsion. However, if we get a stiff wind against us, we may well have to row just to keep up with the current.

There's a standard scale for measuring the difficulty of rapids, but it is not used in the Canyon. Instead, they have their own scale which runs from 1 to 10, where 1 is a little riffle and 10 requires great technical skill to run safely. The level of difficulty also varies depending on how much water is being released upstream from Glen Canyon dam. The flow is measured in "cubic feet per second" (cfs) and might range from 8,000 cfs at night to 20,000 cfs on a weekday (when the most electricity is generated). Of course, that water release takes time to make its way down the Canyon, so the more difficult rapids must be scouted before running them so the guides can plan their runs.

On the other hand, these boatmen have been down this river so many times they pretty much know what to expect on all but the most treacherous rapids. So, in general, we just sail along the river taking them as they come. Protocol is that the second-most seasoned boatman goes through a rapid first (on this trip, that was Tony) and the lead boatman goes last.

That protocol is ignored for light riffles, which is what we came to first. If the river is running straight the rapid will describe an inverted "V" up ahead. All you have to do is keep the raft centered until you come out at the point of the V. If you fail to do that, you'll wind up in an eddy at one side of the rapid or the other; and these can be tricky to get out of.

I made it through my first riffle without incident.

And the second. And the third. I was really enjoying myself, my headache gone and a stiffness in my neck the only lingering evidence of the previous night's abduction.

A roar up ahead signaled our approach to a more serious rapid, but the river was still straight at this point and, even though the water was far more churned than it had been on the previous riffles, it still described an inverted "V" so I saw no reason to worry about it—especially since Turtle, behind me, had expressed no concern. So I positioned the raft to enter the raft at its center and let the current take us.

I was unaware of the protocol, and so rode right past Tony, who stood up on his oar frame and stared at me, eyes wide, jaw agape, in obvious shock and horror of what I was about to row into.


Then we were in it. Standing waves rose on either side of us higher than my head. The roar of water was as loud as an express train at close range. The energy of tons of water struggled to yank the oars from my fists with far more force than I'd expected or even imagined possible. Yet I hung on; to lose the oars now would at least pour us into an eddy but at the worst, which was more likely, we would capsize and I would be humiliated and certainly never permitted to row again.

Somehow I managed to hang on to the oars and keep us centered all the way to the rapid's trailing edge. I could then relax and drift, allowing the rafts behind us to come through. The next raft was Tony's, and he rowed up alongside us.

"Oh, my God!" he cried. "Have you ever rowed before?"

"Yes," I said. "Last trip, two years ago."

"Well, that was pretty good," he admitted. "I thought you were goners."

"Robby told me to let him row," Turtle hastened to add, defensively.

Tony took a deep breath, shook his head, and paddled away. I turned to Turtle.

"Don't look at me," he said. "On a big motorized raft, all the rapids are riffles."

So I kept rowing. But I wondered. If Tony didn't remember me rowing from the previous trip, how was it he was supposed to remember I was an abductee, as Rusty had said? This was just more evidence, as far as I was concerned, that Rusty was, indeed, a "plant" from Arcadia's secret organization, whatever it was.

And, that night at dinner, Rusty provided further evidence. I was sitting with Lynn and Walt and Liz and and a couple of other passengers when Rusty joined us. I had been expounding on how much fun it was to row a raft when Rusty somehow changed the conversation to UFOs. Walt, it turned out, had once seen one and that gave Rusty the entry he'd been looking for.

"Paul's an abductee. Isn't that right?"

I frowned. This was not what I'd wanted to happen. But I reminded myself that closets are for clothes, not people. "Yeah," I said. "That's right."

Well, of course everyone wanted to know if I was serious and what was it all about and I told them what I knew, omitting of course the whole Arcadia thing and my suspicion that Rusty was involved with her. And then Liz asked, "When was the last time this happened to you?"

I opened my mouth to say, then realized it was just too dramatic that I'd been taken the previous night. It was the truth, but it lacked credibility. It sounded unbelievable. But before I could make up a believable answer, Rusty gasped. "Oh, my God!" he guessed. "On this trip?!"

I nodded and explained what had happened the previous evening.

"Is there a mark?" Liz asked.

"I don't know," I admitted. "I can't see the back of my neck."

"Let me look," she said, and Rusty handed her his flashlight. The whole group gathered behind me, and Liz inhaled sharply.

"What is it?" I asked with growing concern.

"It's definitely a puncture mark," she said. "I can't tell how deep it is, but even after all the water we've had splashed on us today, there's a little dried blood down in the center of it."

"Maybe you should get one of the doctors to look at it," Lynn suggested kindly.

"The queer doctors?" Rusty sneered, and Liz gasped.

"They're paying passengers, just like the rest of us," I said firmly. I realized the bastard intended to out me as gay, too; and I was not going to be the token-gay-guy and the token-alien-abductee on my vacation, dammit!

"So you don't care that we have homosexuals on this trip?" Rusty challenged.

"Of course not," I snapped.

"Are you gay, Paul?" he asked outright.

"I don't think the private lives of your clients is any of your concern," I replied stiffly.

"Paul's right," Liz said. "Really, Rusty, I didn't come here to listen to you spew your bigoted venom when I'm trying to eat."

"You are risking your job, you know," Walt added gently. Walt was a retired judge. "All kinds of potential liability, slander, and so on. As an employee of O.A.R.S. the company is responsible for your actions and statements on a trip like this. And they specifically note in their literature that they are an equal opportunity employer, with no sexual orientation or other biases."

"Hey, hey," Rusty said, his hands held in front of him. "I was just joking. Can't you guys take a joke? Jesus!"

No one really believed he'd been joking except me. Well, not joking, exactly. But I was the only person there who understood he'd said what he did, not because he was a homophobe, but because he was trying to see if I could be flustered.

In the old Uniform Code of Military Justice, which I had to read when I joined the Navy, it stated that homosexuals were not permitted in the military because they were a "security risk", the risk being that a homosexual might be subject to blackmail if an enemy found out he was gay. Of course, this is circular reasoning; if the military didn't discriminate against gays, there'd be no reason to keep it a secret and therefore it couldn't be used in blackmail.

In the Support Group, everyone knew I was gay. I was also out to my friends and family. I realized that Arcadia probably wanted to know for sure whether I was really out of the closet, or only open about my sexuality when I was online. But I was on vacation. And I was not going to be Rusty's, or Arcadia's puppet. If they wanted me to raft Grand Canyon as an openly gay man, let them pay the $2500 for the trip.