Setting: January, 1997. A Friday night, seventh floor apartment, overlooking the city of Lubbock, Texas,
Drinking wine and beer with Uwe, Petra, and Thorsten–three exchange students from Germany, in the United States to study Mechanical Engineering. We’re hanging out, talking, listening to music, laughing, telling jokes, learning about each other’s homelands.
As we’re talking, the hushed, fade-in drum cadence of “Linger” comes on the radio. Our talking and visiting suddenly stops; Thorsten looks wistful, Petra walks to the window and gazes at the city lights, and Uwe stares off into the distance, seemingly detached yet obviously lost in thought. It’s a very odd scene, the spontaneous mood change that has come over these three people, as if it triggered a collective memory or shared sorrow. The conversation we’d been having showed that this wasn’t the case; these three friends had only met each other a fortnight ago and were friendly only out of happenstance.
As the song plays, I notice Petra smiling. I ask her about what is causing her to smile. “The song,” she says. “When I get lonely and sick for Berlin, whenever I hear that song come on, it reminds me of home, of my friends, of the streets, the lights, and the life. The drums. The beat. I think of places I have been and where I want to be, and I smile, for when I’m feeling sad, that’s where I go in my mind.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the strange effect Dolores O’Riordan has on my German friends; a few days prior, during a late-night drive through the city streets, Uwe turns up the stereo when he hears “Dreams” come on, telling me to be quiet as it plays and to speed up the car. He doesn’t explain why, but I instantly understand: it’s a transcendent moment, one I cannot quantify or explain, but one that remains quite vivid to me,twenty years later. On the rare occasion “Dreams” does come on the radio, I always find myself turning it up and speeding up, appreciating this odd, inexplicable feeling I feel. (If the moment happens while I’m driving at night, it will make my week.)
When “Linger” finishes, we go back to our conversation. “You must understand,” Uwe tells me later in the evening. “That song is very Europe. It is very–how you say–cosmopolitan. It may just be a song to you,” he says in his cool, detached but oddly serious German voice, “but it is home for us.”
RIP Dolores O’Riordan.