an After abortion

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Abortion in Literature.

One in a continuing series.

How writers talk about the emotional aftermath of abortion in fiction illuminates an aspect of abortion that many people feel deeply uncomfortable discussing outside of fiction.

Today's fictional abortion occurs in The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Book Four of a wildly popular series that started with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

These novels by Alexander McCall Smith feature Precious Ramotswe. Precious is a traditionally-built woman who in her late 30s opens a private detective agency in Gabarone, the capital city of Botswana.

The central plot in The Kalahari Typing School for Men concerns a middle-aged man, Mr Molefelo, and his search for personal redemption.

Mr. Molefelo has prospered in his business and his marriage. However, his conscience troubles him over events that occurred many years ago. Unable to live with himself, he approaches Mma Ramotswa. He wants her to locate the people he wronged in the hope that some restitution or reconciliation can occur.

When Molefelo was in college, he dated a nursing student.

Then, Mma, I have to tell you, we were so friendly, that she found out she was expecting a baby. I was the father, she said. I did not know what to say about this. I think that I just looked at her when she told me. I was shocked, I think, because I was just a student and I could not be a father to a baby just yet.

He sees his girlfriend the next day and "asked her whether she was still expecting a baby." After a day or two of this,

My girlfriend was now becoming angry with me. The next time I saw her, she shouted at me and told me that I had let her down. She said that because of me, she would have to try to get rid of the baby before it was born.

The young Molefolo steals a radio from his landlord to raise money to pay for the abortion.

I gave the money to my girlfriend that night, and she just cried and cried when she took it from me. She said, though, that she would see me that weekend, after she had been out to Old Naledi to have the baby got rid of. I said that I would see her, but I am sorry to say, Mma, that I did not. We used to meet outside a cafe in the African Mall. She would wait for me, and then we would go for a walk together and look at shops. She was waiting for me as normal but I stood under a tree, some distance away, and watched. I did not have the courage to go up to her and tell her that I no longer wanted to see her.

She sent a letter to me through one of the other boys..she said that I should not send her away after everything that had happened. She said that she was crying for the baby.

After Mr. Molefelo tells his story, Precious Ramotswe says:

"That cannot have been easy to say. You have been very brave. Most people never tell these stories about themselves. Most people make themselves sound better than they really are.

Mma Ramotswe expresses confusion about Mr. Molefelo's expectations of her:

"I can't bring back that baby...I can't prevent the sadness which that girl felt...Do you think that money can change things? Do you think that just by giving somebody money, you can undo what you did?

Molefelo clarifies that he hopes Precious Ramotswe will find the girl, meet with her, and see if she is willing to accept an apology. He also asks Mma Ramotswe if she will come with him when he apologizes:

"Of course I'll come with you. I will come with you and I will be saying to myself: This is a brave man. Only a brave man can look at his past wrongs and then face up to them like this.

Precious Ramotswe eventually finds the girl, now middle-aged and married with five children. As Mma Ramotswe reports to Mr. Molefelo:

"She said that she did not train as a nurse after all. She was very upset when you made her deal with the baby in that way. She said that she cried and cried, and for many months she had bad dreams about what she had done."

"That was my fault," said Mr. Molefelo. "My fault."

"Yes it was," said Mma Ramotswe.

Mma Ramotswe also passes on this message,

"She said that you must not worry. She said that her life had turned out well and she bore you no ill will. She said that she hoped that you had been happy too."

Mma Ramotswe then reaches an agreement with Mr. Molefelo that as partial restitution for his wrongdoing, he will pay the nursing school tuition for the oldest daughter of his former girlfriend. However, some negotation occurs.

Mr. Molefelo was silent. "The fees are high," he said. "That costs a lot of money."

Mma Ramotswe looks at him, meeting his gaze. "I do not think that you can make up for things cheaply, Rra. Do you?"

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