By Auburn Red
A The Graduate fanfic
These characters don’t belong to me. They belong to Charles Webb, Mike Nichols, and Embassy Pictures. Mrs. Robinson’s background was created by yours truly. (If it contradicts anything said in the book, my apologies.)
It was the calm before a storm. More specifically the calm after a storm. She expected arguments, divorce, ostracism, and exile from their intimate circle of friends. This was not what she expected….nothing at all. Once again she went to the same parties, saw the same faces and laughed at the same jokes. When Charles returned from Berkeley, he informed her that he told Ben that he was divorcing her but he really had no intention of doing anything of the sort. Mike and Candy Braddock must have known, but apart from the occasional frosty looks, they hadn’t said anything either. It was as if her only punishment was to let it stew in her head and think about what she did. She had expected living in the Hell of exile from the life she had gotten used to. What she got was the Limbo of waiting, expecting an ending that would never come.
She could never explain why she did it. If you asked her she would never know truly why. When Ben came home, he looked suddenly different, older, more handsome; different from the big-nosed skinny awkward boy that she knew as her husband’s business partner’s son. Maybe she had one too many, that night, as usual. Maybe she was just bored, but that night it happened.
She wasn’t exactly a novice at the idea. Well she had never gotten that far during her marriage. She would flirt sometimes, touch a young man on the arm or leg and get a vicarious thrill out of his excited grin. Very occasionally, she would invite someone in a closet for a few necking sessions or have one-night stands that she couldn’t remember the next day. But to have a several month long affair with the same young man was not in her usual repertoire. Could she explain to Ben that the constant flirting and having sex and drinking were just as awful to her as the constant questions about his future were to him? That it can be just more confusing to be at nearly 40 and not know what your life was about than to be 21? How could she pretend that nothing had happened?
She took out a pen and began to write. She glanced over at her bags. The only things that she was taking were her clothes, some money, and maybe some jewelry that she intended to sell. She walked over to the bar to pour another drink and light another cigarette to do some thinking. What could she say? They had run out of things to say verbally to each other long ago; how would a letter be any different? What would she tell him? How about her life before college surrounded by artists, intellectuals, and other types that would be considered outcasts from society?
She was raised very liberally by her father and mother Ramon and Helene Russo, an Italian essayist and his French artist wife who had immigrated to the states in the ‘20’s. They had spent the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression greeting artists, intellectuals, activists, labor organizers, Socialists, and others. Their home was attended by some of the most eccentric visitors. It was not always an easy time particularly when people were looking for Communists. But there was never a time when she felt isolated or deprived of any thought. She listened and longed to be a part of that world to be an artist or a writer someone who would be regarded by her talent and bright mind.
Her father was involved in a union strike against police officers and was hit on the head. The hemorrhage continued for a week before he finally succumbed. She was only 10-years-old but she remembered how shattered she and her mother were after her father’s death. Her mother remarried a year later and she saw her devolve from a strong opinionated flirtatious woman to a meek subservient housewife under the thumb of a dictator-husband. Her stepfather had been injured as a child and was ineligible to serve in the War and he hardly ever worked. Instead, he skulked around the house drinking and making life miserable for his wife and step-daughter. She often ran outside not caring for the war outside, more concerned about the war going on at home. She attended college across country to California to get away from her stepfather just as much as she wanted to learn and study art.
Her college years seemed a lifetime ago. Between studies and practicing painting (which in hind sight was never as good as she believed then), she had affairs with men. There were a few tumbles with pro-athletes, future MBA’s, and a poet or two until she met Charles Robinson. He was handsome, charming, and captivated by her instantly. She however was not so interested and withdrew from him almost enjoying the chase of rejection and playing the coquette rather than being the object of a man’s eyes. She remembered how it happened. She got drunk one night and her date went too far. She shoved him away and Charles punched him. He took her home and the two made love in his car.
After she and Charles were married and Elaine was born, she found herself falling further and further into ennui and the tedium that never ended. She didn’t hate Elaine, but sometimes she would get a little irritated with her childish prattle or pretending to enjoy her dance and piano recitals. Sometimes she felt the girl was too selfish demanding too much of her attention. She never felt like she could encourage her the way her parents did. Elaine never understood those things.
What was worse was that she didn’t fall into that trap the way her mother did, because of a brutal man. Charles was kind in his own way. True he had “affairs” of his own to attend to, but he never understood her. Never listened to her, so her conversations with him became nothing more of “yes, dear,” and “of course we should go to their house.” She saw herself day after day, year after year falling into that trap by herself. Outside she played the perfect wife, but inside she was screaming to be let out and screaming to escape.
She thought of the wedding and Elaine’s last words about it being too late: Not for me! Maybe not for her either. She didn’t have to be Mrs. Robinson. She took out the pen and wrote two words, the only two words that she needed to say: