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The men in the glasses were drawing guns and pointing them at me...



January 7, 1987

I suppose it would be appropriate to begin with myself; who I am and how I got here, and why I've decided to start keeping this journal, a habit I gave up around age twelve.
     Name: Sasha Leanne Banks. I was born May 15, 1954 to Joshua and Marianne Banks in a quiet Berkeley neighborhood and had a pleasantly uneventful northern California childhood, about which I find little to say right now. I was a quiet child and slightly more serious than others my own age; between an aptitude for science and keen interest in everything that flies, I was a misfit from early on—I was the only girl I knew who built model rockets—so the girls thought I was weird and the boys thought I was, well, a girl. My father teaches science at the local high school; my mother works in real estate. They're comfortably well-off, still living in the same stuccoed split-level I grew up in, surrounded by books and houseplants.
     I come from a strikingly mongrelized family, the kind that ends up checking a lot of "other" on census forms. All my father's relatives are still in Russia; he writes and receives lengthy letters every week. On the other side you have my mother; her mother was Chinese, an immigrant from Wuhan who married another newcomer in San Francisco—I never knew him, and she died when I was nineteen. If Mom hadn't been so dead-set on assimilation my English would probably be a mess, but she was quite strict on that score.
     In apperance I take much more after my mother's side of the family than my father's, standing just over five feet tall with straight dark hair, dark brown eyes that tilt a little, and a rather delicate build. Small, studious, and introverted, the '60s and I ignored one another, and in the face of the sanctioned irresponsibility of the '70s I simply retreated further into my own particular interests. I went to UC-Berkeley for physics and got a master's degree, considered a doctorate, but the post-Vietnam Cold War climate made the sciences seem less than attractive as a career option. I didn't want to be in the weapons business; I wanted to fly.
     I made my first solo before I was legally allowed to drive a car and have never looked back. I still remember the look on my father's face when I landed that day, a mix of relieved worry and rarely-expressed pride. When I am being honest I will admit that nothing in the world matters more to me than that freedom, to be there. Not really being a writer and certainly not a poet or whatever, I don't think I can explain it.
     At that time I was involved in a relationship that looked like it might get more serious than I was ready for and feeling the somewhat belated stirrings of youthful restlessness. I could have stayed in California, married Travis and probably have kids by now. Probably still be typing his papers for him, too. We were fighting all the time, and at least half of it was because I didn't know what I wanted, or was unable or unwilling to express it. I needed space and time to think things over, far away from all of them. I announced that I would spend the summer in Boston, and those first few months stretched into permanance with surprising ease; I bounced from job to job for a few years and was eventually hired on at American Airlines. I don't feel that I ran away from anything; more as if I narrowly escaped something. No one really said anything about my decision; my parents have always pretty much just wanted me to be happy, and Travis and I weren't speaking by that point.
     Funny. I haven't thought about him in a long time.
     Piloting is still mostly a man's game, and for a long time it took all of my energy to convince the ones I worked with that a woman my size could and would demand to be taken seriously. I retain from those years a vast repertoire of filthy jokes about flight attendants and a certain wariness regarding the male species. Even after I had gained some measure of acceptance, I was careful to never become more than casual friends with any of them. I shared an apartment with a series of younger women, grad students who found my frequent absences and almost nonexistent space requirements assets. Once a year or so I would make a futile stab toward the world of relationships and retreat again—no need to go into the messy details.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson