The Boris Johnson Library was located in one room of a tiny shotgun house, one street over from my own. When I found it, the doors to both the house and the library were unlocked, and I went inside and looked around. There was nobody around.
I found what I was looking for: a hardcover copy of A Bit of Fry & Laurie & Johnson. The library was a lending library, but with nobody present I took the book and made a note to return and find the librarian to officially check it out.
I continued wandering the streets of New Orleans, looking for further information about Boris Johnson. Two days later, Russell Brand found me and helped me out. He gave a humorous monologue about the idea of American presidential libraries.
“I mean, can you imagine if we English did that? If Boris Johnson got 15 million dollars to build a Boris Johnson Center? In the shape of his hair?”
Brand was currently the host of This is the World with Russell Brand (aka This is It). He took me into a shotgun house two doors down from the Library and introduced me to a young blonde boy who had just come from working in Johnson’s office after graduating from Yale.
“I don’t know much about him,” the boy said of Johnson, “but this was his favorite polo.” He went into a back room and came out bearing a necklace with a polo mint on it. The mint had been painted with red bits to look like a life preserver.
He let me wear it. I didn’t ask how this boy had come to obtain Johnson’s polo.
Out of the window, I saw police cars two doors down at the Library.
“Looks like you’d better return that book,” Brand joked. I laughed but became nervous. I walked quickly over, past the two cops, Sam Hankson and Andy Pankington.
Inside, the librarian, a Yale professor, was sitting filling out forms. I presented him with the dust jacket of A Bit of Fry & Laurie & Johnson. He looked cross.
“I’m sorry, that book is unavailable at the moment. It has been stolen.”
“No, I have it. I got it two days ago, I came in but there was nobody here.”
His face darkened.
“Burglary is a serious offense. How did you get in here?” He pointed to the windows. “Did you break these?” They were not broken.
I told him the doors had been open. He did not believe me. He wrote it down. I saw that on his desk was a photo “Suspect” that showed a sketch of a black man.
As the carriage passed through New Haven, the librarian explained to me that he was taking a hard line on me, because his experience with students had made him cynical. “I’m going to make an example of you. The chicks, these undergrads, as soon as you mention you’re not pressing charges, they totally tune out.” He was consistently sexist. “You tell them you’re not pressing charges but you expect them to repay you. They just hear that as they’re free.”
He told me that there was one way he would grant me leniency, which was to attend his upcoming “Holoish fundraiser.” “It’s $100 per person. It’s for Holocaust awareness. You must bring a guest, and they must also pay $100.” I politely declined.
My parents came up beside the carriage. They tried to make conversation with the professor about the new house. It was clear this was not helping. I gave them a signal to cut it out. They did not cut it out.
* * * *
I surveyed Obama’s America. I thought about how it would look generations hence. I imagined a little black girl writing a letter to her great-great grandfather. I saw cornfields.
I’d put all of this in my college application essay.