By Woodrow Writes published February 24, 2019

Adam Rivera has always been the man of Ian’s dreams. Now, he’s REALLY going to be.

(Hey! Long time reader, first time poster. This is my first time trying something like this, so don’t hold back with the feedback. This one’s a bit of a wind-up, but I promise part two is the pitch. Enjoy!)

The first time I saw Adam Rivera do the cha-cha, I wanted to cry.

You wouldn’t think that’d be what did it. I’d had four years to fall increasingly under his spell, and each year had, in its own way, presented me with a challenge. Freshman year, when we were both 18, he was the former high school quarterback who’d decided to try his hand at theater, and I was the high school nerd who loved writing plays who’d decided to try his hand at continuing writing plays. The only thing harder to handle than a Jewish-Cuban hunk with a goofy smile and biceps that fill out a black t-shirt was meeting that hunk while he was auditioning to star in your play and, despite his having no prior theater experience, absolutely and clearly blowing away his competition. If you think you could have spent the rest of that year at rehearsals and cast parties with Adam without developing the world’s biggest crush on him, congrats on being a stronger guy than me.

Sophomore year, he started having sex. With his castmates. Who were women. So, y’know, that was a fun and sexy time for me. And being friends with these women, I got to hear all about it - how giving a lover he was; how confident, how unexpectedly skilled, how obsessed he was with getting his partner to come, ideally at the same time as him, like life was some movie from 1976. I heard other things, too - when my friend Mona caught me staring, once, she said darkly, “Oh, Ian, you don’t really want that. He’s kind of…old-fashioned, you know what I mean? I think it’s the Cuban or something. Really on that macho patriarchal I-pick-where-we-go-on-the-date, I’m-in-control, call-me-Papi kind of bullshit.”

I nodded to show I understood how terrible this must have been, shifted my position in my jeans, and tried to bite really hard on my knuckles without her noticing.

Junior year, perhaps missing the natural workout he used to get from high school sports, Adam started hitting the gym. Hard. Every time I saw him that year, he was a little bit bigger, a little bit burlier, and - God preserve me - he’d started growing a beard. A really good beard. As Mona had said, it was probably the Cuban in his genes. And in his jeans. Maybe the hardest part of all of college, for me, was that period after he’d started bulking up but before he’d bought a new wardrobe. Watching that same black shirt from freshman year slowly struggle against the increasing bulk of Adam’s body, straining at the shoulders and overflowing at every end with dark, thick fur, I at once sympathized with and envied the shirt.

Senior year, I realized I had to get this under control. I mean, you’ve known me for four paragraphs, and you’ve probably realized this. Adam had always been a good friend to me, a kind, goofy guy who’d lent his time and talent to my shows, who I’d had fun one-on-one hangouts with in the quiet corners of cast parties or on groggy dining hall mornings when we both needed a friendly face to start the day with. I told myself to be grateful to have such a great guy in my life on any terms. Just because he had all the charisma and huggability of “Before” Chris Pratt, plus the insane triceps and cocky swagger of “After” Chris Pratt, didn’t mean I should ruin my own life by watching him bed girl after girl and wishing that was me he was flirting with at every party in that charming, disarming sort of way.

I wrote my shows. I went on dates with guys. Some of them made me laugh. Some of them even filled out a shirt well. Never the same ones at the same time, but I made an effort and maintained a trim, albeit not cut, figure, and felt good about the fact that I was working on me.

Then: the goddamn cha-cha.

It was senior spring. The school’s Office of the Arts had thrown a gala for all the students who’d contributed to the arts scene that year, and as with any senior spring event, we had taken it as an excuse to throw on a suit, get drunk, and find someone to throw it off with as quickly as possible. Or we would have, if the school hadn’t tried to make it a “banquet.” This meant parents had been invited, speeches had been given, and food had been provided. The first two things would normally have been a big deterrent, but for college students, the third thing overruled everything else. So now here we were, after the dinner, during the party. I was two glasses of Franzia in to my evening, shimmying a little on the sidelines with Mona, when some absolute genius of a DJ (sarcastic? Not sarcastic? I genuinely don’t know) put on the Cha-Cha Slide.

For most of the kids - and those parents brave enough to have chosen to dance - this was a clear chance to take it easy, to embrace the whitest of white dance moves and slide, in the least smooth of ways, to the right. But for Adam, it was a chance to actually, well, cha cha.

And that may not sound sexy to you, but you weren’t there. First things first, I’d spent so much of the past two years staring at Adam’s rapidly swelling chest and biceps, I’d completely failed to notice his ass. And if there’s anything the cha cha will make you notice, it’s a guy’s ass. Adam’s was astounding, exactly the kind of ass a straight man should never be allowed to have, two massive globes, each one as wide around as one of my open hands, and both straining against a seat that was threatening to rip as Adam thrust his backside out and moved hypnotically on athlete’s thighs. It should have looked stupid or cheesy - it was the fucking cha cha slide - but when your eyes followed the broad triangle of his back up to his brawny shoulders, when you took in the complete confidence he radiated - the confidence of a man who knows what he’s doing, what he wants, and that what he’s doing will get him what he wants - and when you imagined, possibly, a world in which you were the thing that he wanted - well, it all could be a bit much.

“Hey, are you ok?” Mona asked. “You look like someone just slapped you.”

“I wish,” I half-mumbled, still staring. The cha-cha portion had ended and Adam was criss-crossing, smiling and laughing like he hadn’t just attempted to impregnate the air around him.

“What?” Mona asked, about to look where I was looking. “What are you - oh, my God, uh, I have to go.”

Now it was my turn to look where she was looking - and even as Mona excused herself, I realized why she was leaving. Mrs. Rivera was headed directly towards us, and Mona had no intention of making small talk with the woman whose son she had hooked up with in a falafel joint’s bathroom two years ago.

Which left me to talk to the woman whose son I wish I had hooked up with in a falafel joint’s bathroom.

“Hi, Mrs. Rivera,” I said, my mouth dry. I shouldn’t have been nervous - we were on good terms. Adam’s mom was well-known amongst the theater community for being…intensely supportive, be it of her son or of anyone around him. She came to all of his shows - all of them - and frequently bought pizza or booze for the whole team afterward. She even friended us on Facebook and followed us on Twitter, but not in, like, a weird way. She was, overall, pretty cool. It was just hard to talk to someone who was pretty cool when their son was fifteen feet away and the cha-cha portion was coming up again.

“Please, call me Midge,” beamed Mrs. Rivera, the Jewish half of the equation. “I’m so glad to see you. You know I love your shows, right? Have I told you recently?” She had. Often. Which is not to toot my own horn - Mrs. Rivera was just, as far as I could tell, a very loving person. “It’s so nice of you to cast Adam so often. He was so nervous when he decided to give performing a try, and you write him such great parts.”

It was possible that since freshman year I had started writing parts into my shows with a certain casting choice in mind. Sue me. He had charisma.

“I’m so glad he found you. Or you found him,” she continued cheerily, nodding her head in her son’s direction. I had no choice but to look, and - oh, man, there was the ass - I tried not to but I inhaled sharply, and my fingers went white around my glass of wine. She had to have noticed. But when I looked at her, she was looking at Adam. She hadn’t noticed. Had she noticed?

“He’s so like his father these days,” she mused. She wasn’t wrong. I’d met Jorge Rivera too, a few times, and even in his middle age, the man was like something out of an old pin up, a swarthy Tom Selleck type who smelled like Cuban cigars and aftershave. It was easy to see Adam aging into a version of that, but with an Equinox membership. Kill me.

“I remember the first time I saw his father dance like that,” Mrs. Rivera sighed. “Impossible to look away, isn’t it?”

“I - uh -” Oh, fuck. She had noticed. I had absolutely no idea what to say.

“Relax,” Mrs. Rivera said. “You remind me of me at your age, you know that, Ian? Bright. But shy. Not always sure how to get yourself noticed. And he reminds me of Jorge. Such a big heart, such a big…presence…” (My eyes were bugging out at this point) “…but not yet the wisdom to know…how to focus it. It broke my heart at that age.” She smiled ruefully, and fished in her pocket. I don’t think I’d breathed in sixty seconds. What was going on?

She pulled something out and placed it in my hand. “Take this,” she said. “Jorge’s mother gave this to me when I was your age. She told me she liked me, the way that I like you, Ian. She said that she wished to give me what I wished for, because she and I were wishing for more or less the same thing. She told me to crush these up when I made that wish.”

I looked into my palm and saw a small pile of dry herbs. “Uh - I -”

“I know. It’s weird. It’s several kinds of weird. Let’s process it later. Just make sure you make eye contact with him when you make your wish,” she said. She patted my hand once more, smiled again brightly like she hadn’t just completely wigged me out, and then walked away, muttering, “And people say Jewish mothers are overbearing…that woman could have taught me a masterclass. Well, I suppose she did.”

And then she was gone, and the cha cha slide was done, and there was a brief lull on the dance floor, and I looked out onto it, and I saw Adam, panting, barrel chest heaving, looking around, and his brown eyes caught mine, and -

A world in which you were the thing that he wants -

My knuckles squeezed white, again.

I felt the herbs crumble in my hands, and then disappear, as if I’d never been holding anything.

Adam and I were still looking at each other. For a long time now. Longer than a gay guy should look at a hot straight guy.

Something by Ariana Grande started playing. I jumped like a jackrabbit who’d heard a gun, tore my eyes away before Adam could think - well, could know - I was perving on him, and made a beeline for the safest place for any shy guy at a dance party: the drinks table. As I tried to pour myself a Harpoon IPA, my hands were shaking. Foam and beer sloshed over the edge of the glass, landing on my shoes. What the fuck had that been? Was I imagining it, or had Mrs. Rivera tried to set me up with her son? But she knew that was weird, right? Also, she knew he was straight, right? Could she have known something I didn’t? No. I was drunk, and jittery, and hopped up on four years of hoping, and spilling -

“You’re spilling,” came a low, amused voice from right over my shoulder. Jackrabbits had nothing on me. I leapt again, sloshing more liquid, and there was a long, loud, robust laugh. A laugh I’d heard before, but never a laugh that had been accompanied by two large, strong hands reaching out to grab me by the shoulders and knead them like so much dough.

“Hey,” Adam said, “steady, steady. Be cool, buddy. Didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”

“I - uh - hey, man,” I said. “Did I spill on you? Oh, geez, I’m so sorry -”

“Hey, no, you’re fine. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway.” Now those hands - I couldn’t believe it - spun me around, so that I was facing Adam, and I saw that he was entirely correct. He’d danced up a sweat, and his tailored white dress shirt was soaked almost entirely through around his barrel torso. He’d already unbuttoned it to the bottom of his pecs, and the expanse of fur and chest that was staring me in the face was matted down with sweat. He smelled like - Christ, he smelled like a man, even through that tightly tapered dark blue blazer. And as he grinned at me, I could have sworn his nostrils flared, like he was smelling me, too. Smelling something else on me entirely.

And his hands were still on my upper arms.

“I just couldn’t help but notice,” he said, “that you were pouring wrong.”

“Oh. Yeah. P-probably,” I stuttered, holding up my glass and bottle helplessly. “I’m a bit shaky. Had a few glasses of, uh -”

“No, I mean even without the shaking.” Now he finally removed his firm grip from my arms, but before I could melt into a puddle, he had lightly plucked the beer bottle from my hand and thrown it into the trash next to us.

“Here,” he said. “You need someone to show you how to really pour a beer.” He grabbed a new bottle, and before I could pick up the bottle opener for him, had slammed it on the lip of the table, sending the bottle cap spinning through the air like he was Marlon goddamn Brando. Then he took the glass from my hands, the hairy knuckles of his fingers sliding along mine in a way that couldn’t have been - may have been - intentional - and held it up so that the glass and the bottle were at eye level between us.

“Look at me,” he said, and it wasn’t an invitation, it was a command. “Are you looking at me? Good.” A warm smile cracked through his beard. I could feel my mouth hanging open. Adam had always had a charm to him, but sort of a goofy one. This was like he’d been switched to another setting entirely.

“You can’t just pour it straight in,” he continued, tilting the glass at an angle. “You’re not just having wine with the girls.” I opened my mouth to say something, but he just grinned even more crookedly. “Hush. Sorry. You know what I meant.” Adam had never shushed me before, but then, he’d also never looked me right in the eyes for this long, and I found myself letting it slide. “You tilt it. You pour a little bit straight in. Then, before the thing overflows, you straighten it out so you get a nice…head…of foam.”

He handed me the glass back. It was cold and filled right to the brim. Once again, our fingers met around the glass. This time, he let them stay there for a long moment before separating.

“Th…thanks,” I said, like a genius. Was anyone else seeing this? Why were we the only two people at this goddamn drinks table? Maybe we weren’t. I couldn’t look away from his face long enough to find out.

“You’re welcome,” he nodded. Then, “I should be the one thanking you,” he said, and it was clear he meant it, but from the look that stole over his face it was like we were both surprised to hear him say it - like something was occurring to him for the first time.

“You’ve been such a great part of my life over the past few years,” he continued, and for just a moment I saw a flash of the Adam I was used to - the human, aw-shucks-who-me one I’d met at age 18, not the porn star version of him I’d been cornered by - and I had been cornered, I realized, as my butt bumped into the table; somehow, while we were talking, he’d hemmed me in and I hadn’t realized it, and his shoulders were so broad I couldn’t even see past them - and anyway, oh yeah, what was he saying?

“You gave me a chance to find out what I really loved - a lot of chances,” Adam said, so close to me now that I could feel the heat radiating off of his pecs. “You’ve been kind, and patient, and funny. And you’ve really built my confidence up.”

He placed his hand on the small of my back, the way confident guys can do, like it was natural. Like he wanted to keep me at his side. Like it wasn’t even a matter of wanting, but of what he had decided was going to happen, and therefore was going to happen.

“I don’t know why I never told you before,” he said, and again, it seemed like he meant it.

“That’s…so nice, Adam,” I croaked. “Why…tell me now?”

He tilted his head. A stray light from the dance floor lit up his brown eyes, which were looking at me more intently than anyone had ever looked at me before.

“I guess I wasn’t man enough yet,” he said. “Til now.”

His arm flexed a little, squeezing against his suit sleeve, bringing his hand in. Bringing me in.

No way. No -

“Adam?” came an incredulous voice. “Ian?”

Mona. I don’t know if Adam stepped back or I did, but either way we went from being chest-to-chest - God, i could feel his sweat on my shirt - to standing far enough apart for Mona to be staring, bug-eyed, at both of us.

“I -” I said. Adam said nothing. He was still looking at me.

“Ian, I’m so glad I found you,” Mona said, louder than she had to, even with the music. “I want to introduce you to my dad. Come on.”

“I’ve met your -” I said, but she took my hand and pulled me away. I didn’t have time to look back at Adam, or to explain myself to Mona - but as it turned out, I didn’t have to.

“Oh my God, Ian, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t believe I let him corner you like that. How drunk was he? He must have been talking your ear off. That must have been hell for you - I know he’s so your type - it’s so unfair when guys like him don’t know what they’re doing. And was he mansplaining how to pour a beer to you?? God, men, am I right? Don’t worry, you’re safe now.”

Guys like him don’t know what they’re doing. Those words rung in my ears. So did the words I wasn’t man enough yet. Had Adam really not known what he was doing? Or had he known exactly what he was doing - if not why? Crazy and impossible as it was, I knew which one I wanted

“Listen, I gotta go to the bathroom,” Mona said, coming to a stop outside, indeed, the women’s restroom. “But you stay here, and when I get out, we’ll ditch this place and get my dad to buy us burritos. Be right back.”

That honestly did sound fun. But as Mona disappeared once again, I found my neck craning to find Mrs. Rivera, to see if I couldn’t get her to explain what the hell had just happened with Adam. Or, better yet, I would find Adam. Except I couldn’t. Midge was small, so I understood her disappearing into the crowd, but Adam was hard to miss, and yet no matter where my eyes looked, I couldn’t find him.

“Hey, lindo.” There was that new tone of voice again. There was the sweat and cologne rolling over me and the hot breath in my ear. There was the hand on the small of my back - but this time, rather than merely resting there, it dug in, like I wasn’t getting away again.

“I’d like to spend more time with you,” Adam Rivera said low in my ear. “We’re going to go back to my place now.”

It wasn’t an invitation.

It was a command.

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