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Some things not my business

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Posted: Friday, July 27, 2018 4:24 am

There was a girl from New York City in my dorm during my second year of college in Norman, OK. I don’t remember what her major was or why she chose the University of Oklahoma. I do remember that she had black hair and her name was Sophia. However, I remember like it was yesterday the sound of her wailing, screaming, and crying one afternoon.

We heard it all over the four-story dorm. Some of us went running to her room on the third floor. Sophia’s roommate Beth said she didn’t know what was wrong. She said Sophia answered the phone, listened for a few seconds, and then screamed. Beth took the phone and asked, “Hello? Who’s there?” But, there was no one on the other end. Beth hung up the phone.

Later that evening, Beth explained Sophia’s father had been killed. That’s all the information Beth had.

The sounds Sophia made were a mixture of shock, anger, and grief. They would subside into sobbing and then silence. But, the sounds would start back up again. She refused all efforts to help her, insisting that we not call the campus crisis line. The sounds went on nearly all night and stopped when Sophia’s voice became hoarse.

A long, black limousine drove into the dorm parking lot in the morning. A man got out and walked up to Sophia’s room. He carried her suitcases out to the car and she followed him.

She didn’t come back to finish the semester and as far as I know, she didn’t return the next semester.

I can tell you a lot about Beth. She had medium-length, brown hair. She was from Oklahoma City and went home every weekend. Beth rode a beat up old blue bicycle to class. She was majoring in biology.

I have told you everything I know about Sophia. Black hair, New York City, father killed, limousine.

Beth was familiar. She was like the other girls in the dorm. Sophia was not familiar. She wasn’t like any of us.

Memory studies reveal that we remember what’s familiar because the whole context becomes part of the memory. That’s why I remember more about Beth than I do about Sophia. There are memory advantages for something novel, as well. But, usually we don’t remember the whole context. That’s why I remember just the novel parts of Sophia’s story.

The common room in the dorm was the setting for many speculative conversations about just who Sophia’s father was. We paid attention to the national news, thinking we would hear about the murder of a New York politician or government official. The speculation turned to the underworld when there was no news about politicians or officials.

Just think what we would have done with Google. With the right search terms, we could have figured it out. We would have known more about Sophia than she had ever wanted to disclose.

I thought about Sophia today as I browsed headlines and scrolled through Facebook.

Privacy isn’t as easy as it used to be. I don’t know who Sophia’s father was. But, if the event had happened this week instead of 40 years ago, we would all know.

There are things going on in the world that we should all know about, I get that. I check the news first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day.

I’m glad to be able to keep up with family members and old friends by clicking a few buttons.

However, I do think, “I didn’t need to know that,” a few times a week.

I don’t know what happened to Sophia’s father or why it happened. All of it was unfamiliar to me anyway so, I might not have remembered it this long even if I had been told way back then.

I don’t remember much about Sophia, but what comes back most clearly is what we all have in common. She was devastated by the death of a loved one. That’s all I knew at the time; that’s all I know now.

In my mind, I can hear her crying. The rest of it will always be a mystery and none of my dang business.

Donna Woolston can be reached at

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