Want to know something? I have a secret lover. Well, I call him a lover for want of a better word.
His name is Lawrence Goodbear. I’ve never even met him.
My father and I thumbed through the pages of his World War II album, the photographs he’d taken when he was in Okinawa. Smiling faces of happy-go-lucky soldiers in all their black and white glory—so happy-go-lucky, in fact, you’d never know they were there on big business—-war. One gorgeous, well-built Adonis named Warren. A handsome boy with a winning smile named Ortega. And….Lawrence Goodbear.
There he stood with a slight, knowing grin on his face with one leg jauntily raised and propped on the ruins of an old concrete set of steps. One dark, beautifully sculpted hand draped over the concrete and the other hand resting on a slender hip. A ring flashed in the sun on his left hand—one of those rings fellows used to make in high school out of steel—you know the ones. All the guys wore them.
I know very little about him. Daddy only knew he was Indian and he thought he might have hailed from Oklahoma. All I know is he immediately became my World War II Valentino with his ethereal features and ravens hair, the second I locked eyes on his photo. So lithe, yet with such subtle power in those lissome limbs.
Although his beautiful face was a portrait of serenity and gentility, Daddy said Lawrence couldn’t hold his booze very well and would get really rowdy when he drank. He would often grab the diminutive Japanese cooks around the necks with a good natured grip then thump them on the tops of their heads with his knuckles. As Daddy would tell this, I could picture it so clearly. I’d already fallen in love with his dark, gentle beauty but the vision of his rambunctious shenanigans just made my “crush” deeper.
That picture of Lawrence Goodbear is over sixty years old. Yet as those soft dark eyes stare up from the black and white depths, I feel like he’s NOW, real. He may be long passed. He may still be among us. Somewhere. If he is still living, he’s no longer the supple, youthful dark Michelangelo’s David that is he is the photo.
Like I said, the moment I laid eyes on the photo, I fell in love with him. He’s one of those rare enigmas that I’d give anything to have known, to have been around when the photo was taken, to have heard his voice, see how tall he really was, known if his skin was as soft as it looked, if his hair was as thick as it seemed. Was there some girl’s initials engraved on his steel ring? Did he have a girlfriend?
So, if he’s still out there somewhere with time claiming its right to his youth, I’m still crazy about him. If he’s gone on to a final resting place, I’m still crazy about him. My secret love. Lawrence Goodbear.