Virtue & Mischief: Of white lights and lost memory


Earlier today I saw what I can only describe as a weird, semi-rectangular white light in my far left peripheral vision. It was so odd, yet so real, I thought I was experiencing something paranormal. I shuddered a moment, quickly recalling some unsettling scenes from the recent horror movie, “Hereditary.” (Which reminds me: Note to self — every time you’re tempted to moan about some nettling trait or two your parents have handed down, pause a moment to consider the cursed Graham clan.).

Back to the white light phenomenon. I mentioned this to my wife-optometrist, wondering what here take might be. She nodded knowingly.

“Well, congratulations, Tim. You’re aging perfectly. That’s almost certainly a sign of vitreous detachment. Nothing really to worry about. You’ll probably have a few more episodes like that, but don’t worry. On the other hand, if you experience something that looks like a shade being pulled down…let me know. You don’t want that.”

“Good to know. White lights in the periphery — okay. Shade being pulled down — bad. Got it.”

I had another aging encounter the other day, one I’ve experienced with alarming frequency the past year or two. I was talking casually with a coworker and a student over a cup of coffee in my office. They asked how my weekend had been, and I described for them the uneven but interesting movie that Krista and I had watched on Netflix the night before.

“Hmmm,” replied my coworker. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it. Who was in it? Anyone we might know?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, mentally picturing the female lead. “It had…ummm…you know. That woman.” I waved my hand in front of me, trying to summon from the ether the name of the famous actress my brain was not supplying.

The two interlocutors waited a moment. Finally the student asked the obvious question: “Dean Swensen, what woman?”

“Oh, you know,” I continued lamely. “That woman, uhhhh, well…she’s been in tons of movies I’m sure you’ve seen.”

“Okay,” he said. “Name one or two and maybe I can help you.” I sensed he was slightly embarrassed for me.

I wracked my memory for another movie I had seen her in. Aha! Got one!

“She was in that ‘bad cop’ movie, set in Los Angeles.”

“I hate to tell you this, Dean Swensen, but, you know….there are a LOT of ‘bad cop’ movies set in Los Angeles. Can you provide any more details?!”

My brain was going into involuntary lockdown. I could feel it. Must. Break. Through.

“Yeah, good point. Well, it was that ‘bad cop’ movie where that actor plays kind of a young, impressionable cop. It’s his first day working narcotics with a highly decorated veteran, who’s uber corrupt. The crooked cop is played by….” I searched my brain again in vain for the name of the Academy Award winning actor who played the bad cop. Sigh.

My coworker and the student exchanged a look. Poor Tim. He’s losing it.

“Aaaaaaaghhhhhh!” I exclaimed in frustration. “Oh, Lord, guys, help me. You know…the bad cop. He was played by the famous African-American actor who played college basketball at Fordham [how I came up with this accurate tidbit but couldn’t come up with his name is beyond comprehension]. He was the football coach in ‘Remember the Titans’! He’s been in a million movies. You know!” I sputtered.

“Are you talking about Denzel Washington?” my coworker ventured.

“YESSSSSS!!” I exclaimed, as much in relief as in excitement.

“Seriously? You couldn’t remember Denzel Washington’s name?” she continued.

“I know it’s shameful,” I admitted. “And weird. And it’s happening a lot lately. The other day I called one of my sons ‘Dexter.’”

“Who’s that?” asked the student.

“A beloved family dog who died several years ago,” I replied.

“Hmmm. I’m sorry,” he added. I wasn’t sure if he was sorry for Dexter’s or my memory’s demise, but either way I appreciated his sentiment.

“So back to the task at hand,” I pivoted. “Denzel Washington was in this ‘bad cop’ movie —”

“’Training Day,’” offered the student.

“Yes! That’s it,” I agreed. “Denzel was in ‘Training Day’ with this actress. She was a girlfriend or a wife or something and they had a toddler boy together. She was also in some sort of hard-luck-dating-kind-of-movie with that actor who used to be a rap star.”

“Are you talking about Will Smith?” asked the student, clearly enjoying our new game borne of my pitiful mental state.

“Yeah! Will Smith!” I replied. “So, anyway, she was in ‘Training Day’ with Denzel Washington and that dating movie with Will Smith. Whatshername????”

My coworker chimed in at this point. “Eva Mendes? This whole time you’ve been trying to remember Eva Mendes??!?”

“Yesssssss!” I jumped up and down with glee. “Ohmygosh, thank you both! That was going to torture me all day. Ahhhhhh. I feel so much better!”

They shot each another knowing glance.

“Dean Swensen, now that we’ve got the actress’s name nailed down, what was the title of the movie you and your wife watched? It sounds kinda fascinating. I might want to track it down.”


By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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