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Hippo Park

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Awsten reads over the words on the sign again, making extra sure that the brassy letters aren’t being misread. “This can’t be real.”

“Nope. I’d say it’s real.” Zach traces his fingers through the letters and makes a smudged line across them. “We’re really looking at some place called Hippo Park.”

A snort escapes Awsten as he pulls their intertwined hands towards himself, making Zach lose his footing for a second and stumble into his boyfriend’s shoulder. Awsten laughs, bright and warm, not only at seeing him blush into his side, but also the sheer irony of the both of them encountering whatever this Hippo Park is. Today was supposed to be their day off from their respective bands, but obviously, the repercussions of their reveries seem to always follow them even when they don’t intend to.

“Seriously though,” Zach says, tugging Awsten’s arm towards the entrance. “we should go in. Y’know, see the sights, see what’s happening.”

“See what the hell they have in a hippo themed park.” Awsten finishes for him. Every word that leaves his mouth is dipped in extra sarcasm, but his body language is the complete opposite. He smiles and leads Zach on into the entrance and his pure joy thrums through Awsten at the prospect of the hilarity, intrigue, and him . They pay for tickets at a booth and the place becomes theirs.

As they tour the insides of the attraction, they figure out that it’s some pop up event to raise awareness for something about saving the hippos or whatever and the park uses its funds for a good cause towards the saving prospect, though Awsten doesn’t pay too much attention to the details. He’s too busy focusing on the hippo shaped cotton candy some kid dangles around.

“Means ‘river horse’ in Greek!” is the only thing Awsten tunes back into from the overly perky employee’s mouth. She emotes a powerful beam of friendliness, but her words are dimmed by how tired her eyes are.

“Wow, didn’t know that!” It comes out as more of a bored statement from Awsten’s mouth, but again, at least he’s trying to pretend he’s interested. Instead, he shakes an equally distracted Zach’s shoulder and points in a direction completely opposite to the employee that pulled them over. “Oh look at that thing over there!” he rushes as he speedwalks the both of them away.

On their way to the other side, they encounter a fan of both of them (fairly rare because indie and whatever kind of alternative Waterparks is don’t really mesh well sometimes). She’s shaky with starry eyes at the both of them and fumbles for a pen in her backpack for them to sign her souvenirs with.

“How did you two get together anyways?” the fan asks curiously. That’s one of the main questions they always get besides “How’d you figure out you were gay?” and “How do you feel as a gay musician in the scene?”. They’re fairly standard questions, but they get repetitive and they always recycle the same old answers. Personally, Awsten’s favorite question was “How the hell are you supposed to do anything with him if you’re both bottoms?” from Travis when he broke the news. Awsten told him about the wonderful existence of double dildos and since then they haven’t been asked a better question or any additional questions from Travis about their relationship.

“We met in a dumpster fire. It was pretty lit.” Zach replies as he signs the fan’s bag. It’s the answer he uses the second most, the most used being “He was a cowboy. I was a vampire. I feel like it’s obvious how it went down.”

They take a photo together and the girl says something about how she only came to Hippo Park because it reminded her of their bands. “Okay, maybe just you two specifically.” she admits before she bounces off to another place, hands gripped tightly in her newly signed items.

“I wish fans would ask us better questions.” Awsten says and that indicates the beginning of his rant. Zach’s already heard it before and doesn’t care enough to hear it again so he wraps an arm around Awsten’s shoulders and guides him to where they can see the actual hippos right before the speech could actually commence. Awsten kind of hates him from drawing the attention away from himself, but then again, the hippos do seem kind of cute.

The two hippos being introduced are these big slow lumps of grey flanked by two zookeepers, reciting facts like the fake enthusiastic one at the front except they seem genuinely interested.

“That one kinda looks like you.” Awsten points to the hippo with the wrinkly rings around its eyes that look like glasses and walks around with little grace.

Zach doesn’t say anything to dispute or agree with him, but instead points at the other hippo. “That one acts like you.” The other hippo is clearly enjoying the attention from being presented to the people, head tilted high as if it were a celebrity.

“Yeah right.” Awsten scoffs in denial. He can see the similarities though.

The rest of the day goes on in visiting café pavilions and buying poorly designed souvenirs from the shop until the park closes and they both have to make their ways back to their hotels (same street, different ones).

They end up talking about theatrics and aesthetics onstage (Zach wants to sneak in a disco ball and Awsten wants to shines lasers at the the theoretical disco ball) until they reach Awsten’s hotel.

“Did you like it?” Awsten asks. “Like, today I mean. I know we were supposed to visit that--”

“I liked it.” Zach reassures him. “Besides, I like the niche shit. Beats any tourist trap any day.”

Awsten sticks his tongue out at him. “Indie bastard.”

“E-boy twink.” Zach fires back, leaning into Awsten’s space for a goodnight kiss and then he makes his way off, still waving even as he walks away.

Awsten takes that as his cue to walk into his own room. Soon as he gets there, he unlocks his room and crashes on one of the beds, Geoff in the other on his phone. Awsten’s presence seems to capture his attention as he looks up and Awsten takes this as an opportunity to say something.

“So I’m thinking we should call a Parx and Hippo tour ‘Hippo Park’...”