Fire-place, Melbourne, July 1993

The thick door of my home couldn’t protect me from that winter’s chill. Icy wind whistled between the jambs and into the house where I was alone. All my thoughts were about loss. I stoked the open fire and tried to defrost my soul.

I listened to The Eagles’ Desperado, over and over. The track, which had just passed its twentieth birthday, crackled on the vinyl LP. For most of that dark afternoon, I attempted to cobble together a broken heart while the lyrics of this anthem to the uncommitted male washed over me.

Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Like many women, I took the pieces of every broken relationship and tried to piece them back together, wanting to make sense of the things I’d done wrong in that particular picture. I watched the fire dance and reflected that all too regularly, I’d tended an oft-broken heart to Eagles’ songs over the years. Then, in my late thirties, I was on the verge of believing I’d never get it right. Yet, that afternoon there was something deeper in the lyrics. They took me away from my usual pattern of analysis.

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get

As the vocal soared, Don Henley seemed to be reassuring me it wasn’t entirely my fault. And, I loved that it was a man who recognised the restless desperado in men; those men who eventually settled for having no-one and nothing.

Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
You’re losin’ all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?

I could picture the desperado in my life walking out the door, letting in cold that I thought I’d never be rid of. Then I found a way to warm myself again. I took his letters, put them in the fire and watched them burn. It was the afternoon I stopped crying about all the fence riders who had passed through my life.

Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late

I will never know if it turned out to be too late for that particular guy. Two years later, I sat in front of the same open fire with the new man in my life. The room seemed to echo with the unmistakable opening piano riff of the song, evoking memories of that cold winter. I needn’t have worried.

This one knew how to open the gate.


Lucia Nardo is a Melbourne-based writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a teacher of writing at Victoria University. Lucia and her father Salvatore have been an integral part of Stereo Stories in concert since its inception in 2014.