(Photo by Jeff Code)
When last we visited Tomas Cabrera, the 23-year-old was teaching group exercise classes in Seven Corners and pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology at George Mason University. And his winter breakup was nearly healed by his early-summer profile.
Has that wound finally healed?
''Hell yeah!'' Cabrera answers immediately. The past year has given him time to digest the heartache and come out on top. ''It was the best thing that could've happened. I got to know so many good things about myself. Now I know what I want and what I don't want, about everything -- in a relationship [and] professionally.''
One thing he wanted, though it may have surprised him somewhat, was a top-tier win in Metro Weekly's Coverboy of the Year Contest. His initial entry was done on a whim. And when the first round of voting began, Cabrera says he was still only mildly interested in the competition. Making the Top 10 after the first round of voting, however, changed everything. Game on.
''It made me very competitive,'' he says. ''Everyone can tell you. I went out the whole week, going out, talking to people.''
Although Cabrera regularly faces a crowd with his exercise classes, busting out on the club scene was a brand-new bag. He may have a winning smile and certain gregarious quality, but he still plays his cards fairly close to his chest. Exposure -- despite the photographic evidence to the contrary -- is not Cabrera's strong suit.
''This was a big excuse for me to go up and talk to strangers. I went out the whole week, going up and talking to people at Halo, JR.'s, Town, Apex, Be Bar, Nellie's.... It was fun. I made some new friends. I really enjoyed it, just going up to people and talking to people. They were very receptive.''
And why wouldn't they be? Cabrera is, after all, a pretty easy sale. That's not necessarily a two-way street, though. When it comes to dating, our heart-healed Coverboy is still a fairly old-fashioned guy who likes to take his time. His next Mr. Right had better be a pro at courtship.
Cabrera says that he's single, but that he has done some dating since the big breakup. His favorite date was dinner in Georgetown followed by a stop at a bookstore where he had reserved a ''What if?'' book of questions.
''We sat down in the kids section, just asking each other questions. We had a really good time. That was the first date. I've never gotten to experience that kind of dating before, and I am very romantic.''
Add to that insight Cabrera's surefire date-killers -- ''Try to have sex or kiss me on a first date'' -- and you may have a chance.
You'd also better be prepared to meet the family, including a cousin who is a fellow Coverboy. During the last 20 years or so, Cabrera's family members have all been following his aunt and uncle to the D.C. area from his native Lima, Peru. Cabrera himself moved up when he was 14. His Peruvian private-school English was quickly polished with a few English classes and some MTV, leaving him as all-American as the rest of his Falls Church High School graduating class.
Cabrera loves living in the D.C. area and has no plans to return to Peru or to move to another part of the United States. He likes Los Angeles, especially the weather, but finds the locals ''superficial.'' The same goes for Miami -- just replace ''superficial'' with ''crazy.'' Besides, Cabrera's family ties are tight, and that seems to be just the way he likes it, especially with his mom.
''We can talk about pretty much everything,'' he says. ''She asks who I'm dating, if I'm having sex. I injured my knees from overuse in group exercise, so she keeps making fun of me: 'Are you on your knees all the time? Why don't you try changing positions?' So she's pretty comfortable. There are boundaries, but she hasn't crossed them. We're cool.''
The same cannot be said for a close friend. Already out to his family, friends and coworkers, there was no negative fallout from Cabrera's July 10 profile. At least, not much. There was that tricky question about the guests a Coverboy would like to invite to dinner. Cabrera chose John, Lisa and Toy, three close friends.
''My best friend, Fernando, was really upset,'' Cabrera says with a healthy laugh. So, for the record, he would like to add that there's always a place at that table for Fernando.
Our thanks to all those businesses and performing arts venues who graciously provided prizes to this year's Coverboy winners.
All Coverboys Photographed by Jeff Code on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Adams Morgan home of Eric Hirshfield.
Metro Weekly thanks Eric and his roommates Daren, Christopher and Ike for their hospitality.