Dear Felix Baumgartner:
I’m a man of many and varied accomplishments. I skipped grade three, attended my high school prom and have consistently finished in the money in my fantasy baseball league. It’s a rock-solid resumé, I know. However, it pales in comparison to the myriad accomplishments that have adorned your life.
On October 14th, I watched as you stepped out from the edge of space and dove toward the earth. A pale scratch on the surface of the universe, you fell for over four minutes, traversing a distance roughly the same length as the Boston Marathon before landing on your own two feet. It was an utterly astonishing, existential victory, something mythic and beautiful, as if a divine ordinance to the necessity of life.
Did I just over-state things? Am I waving my hands about and running around in little boy circles right now? I don’t think so.
You see Felix, what you did was encapsulate and obliterate one of my persistent anxiety dreams. Often, I have the ability to fly in my dreams (my mother said this was a gift), but I’ve never been able to completely master this skill and inevitably lose control, getting tangled in hydro wires, crashing through scratchy tree branches or drifting helplessly into menacing weather. However, in the most frightening of these dreams I ascend too high, up to the point where I can see the curvature of the earth. It’s at this precipice, where all we know begins to slip away, that my panic sets in and I feel myself being pulled outside of my body and floating up into unknown black space.
It was as if when you stepped out of your sports drink sponsored helium balloon and fell back to earth, returning to life, you’d managed to manifest and then explode my most feared dream. It was awesome, like a victory of light over darkness, of Luke Skywalker over Darth Vader.
You sir, are my light sabre.
You are my supersonic skydiver.
By the way, what’s your favourite movie?
After my previous references you might think that mine is Star Wars, but you would be wrong. It’s Jaws. Jaws terrified me as a young boy, leaving me scarred in ways I can’t even describe. Several of my therapists think my fear of sharks is somehow connected to an experience I had as a child when I playfully—but VERY accidentally—drowned my twin brother at the cottage. But this doesn’t make any sense to me, what does killing my twin brother have to do with sharks? I just think that sharks are pale, marine demons that consume all light.
You conquered my fear of space. Can you conquer my fear of sharks, too?
I dream about them, you know. In my dreams my brother and I are in our crib, and above us is a shark mobile ceaselessly rotating, each shark staring dead-eyed and remorseless down at us. We both know that the sharks are going to devour one of us, but we don’t know which one– we’re just lying there, helpless. It’s a night sweat kind of dream. If you could jump from space and destroy all the sharks with a virus or a bomb or some sort of alien technology, then I think you would really be doing God’s work. You would be an absolute superstar, like Johnny Knoxville, a classy, European Johnny Knoxville.
That’s what you would be.
You would be awarded gold medals and women would be falling all over you. (This is another dream I have which I would be happy to share with you.)
By the way, are you related to San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Baumgartner? It’s an unusual name, is all, and he was on my fantasy baseball team and you’re sort of my spirit guide now, so I was just wondering if there was some sort of connection.
I love you.