“Let’s Get It On” (Marvin Gaye)
Leslie crosses her arms and pushes her lips out in an absurd pout and says, “we can’t, Ann. I would lose my job. He would lose his job. Everyone would lose their jobs, Ann! Do you want everyone to lose their jobs?” Her voice rises in pitch and breaks on the last word, and no, Ann doesn’t want anyone to lose their job, obviously.
She says this to Leslie, and Leslie blinks at her so rapidly Ann is worried for like, the sanctity of her eyelashes. Is that a thing? Ann feels like that might be a thing.
“It’s a good song,” she says.
“I read this really interesting New Yorker article on bees,” Leslie says. “Do you think Ben would like to talk about bees?”
“No,” Ann says. Knowing Ben even slightly, he’s probably scared of bees. “Bee stings aren’t sexy. Nor is hypoallergenic shock.”
“Ann, you beautiful, powerful, ruling queen bee,” Leslie says. “I know things must be different inside your hive.”
“Be My Baby” (The Ronettes)
Leslie is the best person Ann knows. Leslie is her best friend. Ben’s-- well, Ben is kind of a nerd, and she’s pretty sure he’s too into his calculator, and sometimes he gets so anxious it spreads. But he looks at Leslie the way Ann thinks everyone should look at Leslie, with this smile tucking up the edges of his mouth that he doesn’t even seem to know is there.
That’s what she wants for Leslie. Someone who looks at her like that and doesn’t even know it, because it’s so natural. Because how could he not?
“You could literally get a room,” she says. “Think about it-- a hotel room, with soft pillows, a nice comforter…. you could get room-service waffles, Leslie, with extra whipped cream and sprinkles. How romantic is that?”
“They still wouldn’t be as good as JJ’s,” Leslie says.
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” (Roberta Flack)
“Do you think Jimmy Carter is sexy?” Leslie asks. She has her laptop and iTunes open on her lap. “I have his Crisis of Confidence speech right here. But if his voice is too sexy, then we can’t put it on the playlist.”
“There are sexier presidents,” Ann says.
Leslie puts it on the list.
When Ann was in college, one of her boyfriends made her a mix tape: Al Green, Marvin Gaye, a Prince song. Some Sinatra, because you’ve gotta have Sinatra. There was a Fiona Apple song in there, for whatever reason. She’s pretty sure that was the song they’d ended up having sex to, because they were in college and whatever, you do that in college.
“What about banjo?”
“What about Marvin Gaye,” Ann counters. Leslie jumps back from the computer like she’s been burned.
“Fired,” she yelps. "Parks department. Fired!"
“He looks at you like he doesn’t care,” Ann says. “He could lose his job too.” Look, it’d be one thing if she was lying about this. She’s just. She’s so not. Leslie’s job is so important to her, and she’s good at it. Maybe it would be different if she didn’t care so much. If one of the things Ann didn’t respect about her was how much she cared.
“Fired,” Leslie repeats.
“Fine,” Ann says. “Banjo is loud and definitely anti-seduction. How much banjo do you even have?”
Leslie shrugs at her. “Banjo bonanza,” she says. “We had this event at the community center a few years ago. Ron wore a hat.”
“All of it,” Ann says. “Put all of it on.”
“I Just Want To Make Love To You” (Etta James)
Facts on the table: Ann wants them to get together. Leslie deserves it. Ben might be her something good. Leslie heads off to the bedroom to try on another blouse with her suit, leaving her laptop open on the table, and Ann says, “hey, want me to burn the CD? I have the blank one right here.”
“Yeah, that’d be awesome,” Leslie calls back. “Did I bring the red blouse with the ruffles over?”
“I think it’s on the bed,” Ann says, pitching her voice so it’ll carry, and then she looks at the playlist. There’s banjo, and Jimmy Carter, and whale noises, and introductory lessons in Mandarin Chinese.
Maybe one song, right? The smallest push, and if it’s meant to happen, then it’s meant to happen.
“Let’s Stay Together” is in Leslie’s iTunes, and Ann drags and drops it into the middle of the playlist. She burns the playlist onto the CD and labels it “road trip fun!” in neat Sharpie. Leslie is making banging noises in the bedroom, alarming ones, so she puts it into a jewel case and leaves it on the dining room table.
Just in case-- she’s pretty sure it’s going to work out.
“Wonderful World” (Sam Cook)
“I need you to give me a pep talk,” Leslie says. “Before I’m stuck in a car to Indianapolis with Ben. Indianapolis is for lovers, Ann.”
Ann says, “I’m pretty sure that’s Virginia.” She has a t-shirt somewhere in her closet saying that, also from college.
Leslie wrinkles her nose. “Maybe,” she says. “Either way.”
There’s a lot she wants to say, like, “Ben is staying in Pawnee for you. He isn’t going back to his state auditor job. He’s staying.” This is what she says instead: “You’ll be fine. You’re smart, and Ben is smart, and nothing is going to happen. And if it does, you can play him some banjo. Or Jimmy Carter.”
“Right,” Leslie says. “It’s not like I’m playing him one of Joe Biden’s speeches with the lights down low, or anything.”
“Exactly,” Ann says. She hugs Leslie. “Go get ‘em.”
“Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green)
Leslie calls from Indianapolis and says, “I care about him very much, and I've had two and a half glasses of red wine, and what that means is I'm gonna go make out with him right now, and it's gonna be awesome.”
There’s a script Ann’s supposed to read, and she does it, because that’s what you do for your best friend.
But maybe, she thinks. Maybe one day in the future this is going to be the beginning of a story, instead of the end of it.
She says, “no, don’t, stop,” and doesn’t mean it at all.