Show notes

Episode 14: Blue

References and resources

I know I’ve shared this vid before, but it’s worth sharing again – so interesting: Why The Ancient Greeks Couldn’t See Blue.

The superb fairy-wren (or “superb blue wren” as I called it in this episode), Malurus cyaneus, is native to Australia and is just, well, superb. Check him out (yes, him – only the males are blue) here: Superb fairy-wren

Check out this potted history of the colour blue in My Modern Met.

Read about Peter Obi, and why young Nigerians are fired up about him, at

This episode’s stories

The Tears of A White Woman by Sally

Clinical Blues by Ejiro Elizabeth Edward

Crushed Soul by Sarah Victoria

The Storm Within by Sarah Somerset

Submit your story


First things first. I acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which I live, work, and record Pillow Talking, the Bunurong and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I recognise their connection to and care of this land, and thank them for the space I share with my family. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and still to come, and extend that respect to all First Nations people who are listening.

Please keep in mind that Pillow Talking contains adult themes and sometimes strong language, so use your discretion for where and how you listen, and who you listen with.


Close the door and dim the lights. Let’s talk. I’m Violeta Balhas and this is Season 2, Episode 14 of Pillow Talking – Stories about the stories we tell each other when there’s no one listening. In this episode, Blue.


Did you know that the ancient Greeks couldn’t see the colour blue?

No – that’s a lie. They could see it, it’s just that for a long time we thought that they couldn’t, thanks to Homer, who described the sea as “wine-dark”. In an even more ancient culture, the Indigenous people of Murray Island in Australia described the sky as “black”.

For a long time, there were many theories about why this might be. They ranged from the ridiculous, like thinking ancient peoples were colour blind, to the racist, like using Darwinism to say these people were less evolved.

But turns out that the bluelessness had nothing to do with these people’s eyes or their standing in the evolutionary ladder, and everything to do with language. Language, that mode of communication that humans create and which in turn helps create human brains, introduces colours into a culture gradually. In all the cultures all over the world, the first colours introduced into a language are always black and white. (Or red, if you’re one of those people who insists that black and white and colours at all.) And the last one? You know it: blue.

Why last? Well, it’s because there’s so little in the world that we physically connect with that’s blue. It’s present in flowers like bluebells, in fauna like my favourite bird, the superb blue wren, in minerals like sapphire, but it is the rarest colour. Blue pigment was the rarest of all pigments, for millennia, and it wasn’t until the 1700s that the first modern blue pigments came into use.

At the same time, blue is the colour of the vastest thing we can see: the sky. And of course, the sea that reflects it.

Maybe it’s this combination of rarity, elusiveness, and all-encompassing shelter for everything on this planet that has given blue its very particular symbolism. It stands for our loftiest ideals of spirit and intellect. It makes us feel as though we can glimpse eternity, time, and space.

Blue is cool and peaceful, and maybe because baby’s eyes often have a blue tinge, it also stands for innocence. But on the other end of the spectrum, there’s the blues. The blues – whether we’re talking the music or the feeling – aren’t peaceful. Or innocent. In fact, the term comes from “the blue devils,” the vivid hallucinations that can come with alcohol withdrawal. In Australia, if you’ve had a blue with someone, it means you’ve had a fight or argument.

Think about the colour blue in your life, and you won’t be able to pin it down. I know I can’t. Take, for example, ink. I use fountain pens, and have a whole bunch of blues: there’s a light blue for when I’m feeling creative, a sparkly blue for when I’m feeling playful, and blue-black for when I mean business. Or take the royal blue wedding dress I chose when Shane and I got married, because royal blue is the colour of first-place ribbons and that’s how I felt. Or take my usual, “Ew” reaction when a kid shows me their blue tongue after eating an artificially coloured blue thing – blue tongues on a human just aren’t right. Or take the time I was in labour in hospital for many hours, right through the night; a nurse entered the birthing suite at nine in the morning and exclaimed, “Look at the day you’re missing!” and threw open the curtains. It was a blindingly bright blue winter day, without a single cloud, and the heavens putting on such a dazzling show for my son’s birth seemed portentous then and still seems portentous now.

All these things about the colour blue, and more, happily coexist. Because whatever it might mean to you or me, under this sheltering sky, blue is always present.

In these stories it appears as blue eyes, striking against Black skin. As the ocean, calling a lover away. As the bruise of a wounded heart. And as the truth, spoken at a time and place where the man in question couldn’t hide – and maybe didn’t want to. These conversations all happened in the intimacy of the bedroom.

Sssh. Let’s listen.


He was beautiful, and I don’t say that lightly. There are good looking men, handsome men, hot men, even gorgeous men, but he was beautiful. Actually I couldn’t quite believe it. He told me I was beautiful, but walking hand in hand through the campus covered in golden red fall leaves, when people looked at us I knew which one of us was the beautiful one.

The most amazing thing about him were his blue eyes. They were startling. Not just because they were what my mom used to call “Elizabeth Taylor eyes” but because they were framed by his smooth chocolate skin. A Black man with blue, blue eyes.

Blue eyes that made me blue. And I deserved it, although I didn’t think so at the time.

We were warm and wrapped in each other after making love. Talking softly about nothing really important, laughing about nothing really funny, caressing each other. I was looking at his face, adoring him, I guess.

I said, “Your eyes are amazing”.

“Why thank you, ma’am,” he smiled.

I continued: “So… like… exotic.

“You’re not going to go fetishizing me now, are you?” He laughed, but there was an edge to it, and I felt like I had to explain.

“No. It’s just unusual, you know?”

“There’s enough of us.” He said, and the laughter was gone.

“What do you mean?”

“You do know what it means, for a black man, in this country, to have blue eyes, don’t you? If you’re not albino or anything like that and you don’t have anyone in the family tree you know of who’s white?”

“Of course I do!” I protested. But actually, I’d never thought about it. It had never occurred to me. My mind was racing, looking for a reason, and finally found it. I realised what he meant. It was huge. So huge that I didn’t know what to say. And that was my mistake. I should have left it there, not knowing what to say, instead of going on to actually saying more. But back then, at that age, I thought the past was just that: the past. Irrelevant for self-determining people in an individualistic, democratic society.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I understand that it must be difficult to reconcile, but…”

“Oh, you understand.”

I continued. “But look at where you are!”

“Where am I?”

“This! Your life now. Your education. Where you’re headed. Don’t you think your ancestors would be proud if they could see you?”

He sat up straight.

“No no no no no no no.” he said. “You don’t get to reframe this. You people do enough reframing and revising.”

I gasped. He was grouping me with “you people”? Tears pricked behind my eyes but he kept going.

“It is not your story.” Then his voice dropped low and each word he punctuated was like a stab in my heart. “It is NOT. YOUR. PLACE.”

The space behind my eyes was full. Tears started falling down my cheeks.

“Lord, save me from the tears of a white woman.”

It would have been bad enough if he sounded sarcastic when he said this, but it sounded like an actual prayer. Even though I’m an atheist, somehow that was so much worse.

Does it matter what happened then? The damage was done.

The tears of a white woman. Those words haunted me for years; they were so unfair. There was no comeback. No way to defend myself. And then, I don’t know what happened. Just life, I guess, along with a little maturity. But one day when I remembered that conversation it struck me, and I understood the real unfairness, I understood a situation that literally had no comeback. I imagined a woman who literally had no way to defend herself from so much worse. And I didn’t cry. I only felt shame.


If you want to get the truth from a man, ask him questions when he least expects it……….…


My head is placed on the left part of his chest and I unconsciously listen for his heartbeat…. There’s none, just regular.

My leg is thrown across his two legs. I am inclined by habit to place my body across my partner in that manner. That way I maintain a form of being comfortable without placing all my weight on him.

Pillow talk by Zayn is playing on his Zealot speaker and my favorite part of the lyrics comes along :

“So we’ll piss off the
Neighbours, In the place that feels
the tears The place to lose your
fears Yeah, reckless behaviour ……”

I can’t help but lip sync to that particular verse of the song. He looks at me and chuckles, while the left part of my brain struggles to tell me not to ask the question that has been playing on my mind after we just finished sex. All my mind keeps saying is: Don’t do it ! Don’t do it ! Don’t do it ! .

But my mouth has more synchronization with my brain and it goes ahead before me plus what’s the best time to get the truth of a man than after sex?

“What do you think about having a threesome?”

I say those words before I realize that I actually said it. He shifts away from me to look at my face and he laughs. I wonder what makes him laugh or what he finds funny about the question.

He sits upright on the bed, his foot on the floor as he grabs a cigar and smokes. He looks back at me and realizes I am awaiting his response.

“Girl, are you crazy? You know I don’t like to share you with anyone!”

I find it cute but I don’t believe him, so I push further.

“It’s three of us on the same bed, babe. It’s not cheating, it’s just exploring our options in bed”.

He looks at me with the I give up face. I chuckle, knowing that he’s avoiding the topic and I go behind him to wrap my legs around his back, my breast touching him. I find a way to drag him back to bed and place my body on his, the former position but this time with his head on a pillow and his arms outstretched.

I place my head on his hands and I am curious to know if his hands hurt him but I enjoy the warm feeling of being a girlfriend even though I am still not sure if I love him.

My hand traces the lines on his belly, I feel them and I lose count of them. Automatically my head lifts itself to observe the marks on his belly. They are the most beautiful designs I have ever seen. They feel me with fear and awe. I once thought someone tried to kill him, or he belonged to a cult group, but I later found out that they were given to children who almost died when they were sick and the only remedy, to make them live, was to stuff herbs into the opening of those marks.

But I wanted him to open up to me. To hear it from his mouth too.

My lips go to his belly button and I blow air into it, making a trumpet sound while giggling . We both share in the intimacy of the moment. I shouldn’t spoil it , I tell myself, just enjoy this moment Elizabeth, I tell myself but my mouth does it again .

“Sugar, how did you get these marks on your body?”

He keeps quiet, and slowly his voice fills the room.

“I almost died as a child , severe chicken pox and malaria had the same time. Modern medicine wasn’t working, so my mother had to do what she had to do , by taking me to the village and getting the treatment the herbalist offered, if not I would have died” .

A bit of fear passes through me and then awe that I had the opportunity to meet this man. To get to know him, something way different from what I am used to. I hold him to my bosom and make use of my lips to find him and my body finds a way to blend into his . I love to be in control but he’s so good at what he does, I relinquish my power. It feels good to have a man who knows what he wants from me, very satisfying and what’s more, he knows how to make my body sing in the most beautiful way .

Some days I end up crying in joy when I feel liquid pass through my legs.

12 :00 AM .

He’s on his laptop working on his app creation. One of the reasons I like him is because he’s incredibly smart. Smart people are a huge turn on for me. I make use of the rest room to take a shower and go back to bed.

Shifting the pillow to where he’s seated I place my legs on his lap and his hands cup my chin as he says that he will join me. I scroll through the pages of twitter and screen shot a list of magazines I should make submissions to the next day.

“#Peter Obi for President” is trending and my chest squeezes itself in its cage as it realizes that Nigerians seem to be finally awake. I feel the need to share this information with this person, this person I am beginning to like.

“Sugar, did you see that Peter Obi is no longer in PDP but has now switched to the Labor Party and the whole of Nigerians are excited! regardless of the party”,

He closes his laptop and says that it’s about time we get a president who is starting on a clean slate, with a party that has not been known to fail us at all.

He says this while dragging my body back into bed with him. I see the sense in what he says as the two previous political powers (PDP and APC) have been known to play games endlessly with the lives of Nigerians. If Nigerians believed that Peter OBI was the man for the job, regardless of the party he was in, they were ready to support him.

I look at the face of my partner who is already sleeping. He has his hand on the curve of my ass and I think about the fact that I could discuss anything with him. I remember how he once said that I have no fear whatsoever of voicing my thoughts and that he loves that about me. To have someone you can voice your absurd thoughts to and not be judged is really nice.

I am tempted to place my head on the pillowcase and turn over to sleep. His eyes open and he kisses my forehead as he makes use of the duvet to cover our bodies. I snuggle closer to him and whisper, “Sweet dreams, sugar”


When we first met, I told him that it was probably better that we didn’t talk. At five nine, he was perfect to me. He always had short jokes to poke fun at himself, but my best friend was five feet even, and I measured in at five seven in three-inch heels. I told him he was tall in my world.

His dreadlocks would fall over the sides of his face. He wore a hoodie and had a nose ring. His long eyelashes outlined his big brown eyes. It never mattered who I met after that. I was smitten. Something about the way his lips wrapped around mine was nothing anyone could ever replicate or replace. After a few nights together, I had mentioned wanting to be more serious with each other. He asked me what he was to me. I replied, “My hot neighbor.” He said that’s what we were. We were each other’s hot neighbor, and he explained that he didn’t want a girlfriend right now.

If feeling blue meant feeling sad, I wonder what color would mean crushed soul. He wanted me as a friend, but that was too hard for me. I tried to explain that it would be easier for me to move on without having someone that I couldn’t have dangled in my face every week. We never stopped talking, but we did stop seeing each other for a few months. When we finally reconnected after I Door Dashed him some soup when he had to quarantine, he told me that he wanted to watch a movie—like we used to do before we stopped talking.

Sometimes we choose horror. Sometimes we pick comedy. Thrillers can be fun, but unless we’ve had too much to drink, he shoots down my repetitive Cobra Kai binge watching. I like to rub lotion down his back, then back up using outward strokes from his spine before making circular motions around his shoulder blades and kissing his neck. “Stop distracting me,” he fussed. I’d just bite his neck a little harder next time. When he finally gave in, he’d roll over on his back and pull me close.

“This is how I know I like you,” he’d tell me.

“I never stopped wanting you,” I said.

“I know,” he replied before clarifying later that night, “but I don’t want a girlfriend right now.”

I really wasn’t sure how I was still alive with my soul constantly dying, but for some reason that color purple felt like the sadness of blue mixed in with the love of red, melted in hell. I still dated, but he was the only one coming home to my bed. A little after a year of meeting, he said, “I have something to ask you.” He held both my hands and locked eyes with me. “You care a lot about me, and I fuck with you. I want to give us a chance,” he said.

I gently nudged him on his shoulder and answered, “It took you long enough.”


I can hear Alex’s slow and quiet breathing, and am tempted to throw my arm around him, but don’t want to disturb his sleep as he lies with his back to me. I can see the silhouette of his firm shoulders, long neck, and hair trailing down his nape. His scent is drawing me near to him.  I inch over to his side of the bed and throw my left arm across his back until it reaches the sheets on the other side. As I hold him I thrust my face into his back so I can inhale even more of his scent. Alex continues to breathe slowly and quietly, the breathing of slumber, so I wonder if maybe I haven’t woken him up after all. I roll on my back, and fall into a light sleep intoxicated with his scent.

Next week Alex will leave me to go sailing for twelve days. We have enjoyed six months of togetherness, almost every day and night. First, I thought I had fallen for Alex because he appeals to my sapiosexuality. I remember his quick mind from university days forty years ago, and am not disappointed by this when I reunite with him. Somewhat counterintuitively, the more time I spend with him the more I comfort I derive from his sheer physical presence. I prefer the nights to the days for this reason. Either he cups his body behind mine and falls asleep breathing gently into my ear, or I cup myself around him and fall asleep with my face squashed into his back. Then I wake with a mixed sense of exhilaration and calm that propels me through the day.

When he is not with me he is preparing his boat. He installs a new chart plotter, a pole for a wind turbine, and re-rigs his sails. I sense the pleasure in his anticipation of the sail, and cannot begrudge him his adventure. I just wonder if I will be able to fall asleep on my own.

Suddenly the dreaded opportunity to sleep on my own is here, because Alex’s son Jeremy announces that his contract is expiring and he will be flying back to Adelaide from Melbourne, to stay at Alex’s house. It’s too soon to announce our relationship to Jeremy, so I use the opportunity to look after my ailing mother in her home. Mum is glad to see me because she has been feeling lonely since Dad passed. I sleep in the bedroom of my childhood, and surprise myself by how easily I fall into a slumber. I feel snug in this familiar room despite the flapping of the doors in the wind in the approaching storm.

I am woken by one of the French doors flying open onto the balcony. I try to pull the doors shut but the wind is too strong. I find a doorstop from another room, consisting of a brick placed into a large yoghurt container. I snuggle back in bed, but by now the wind has picked up in intensity and my doorstop has been blown over. I retrieve a suitcase full of old clothes from the laundry and place it behind the door. Again I retreat to my cosy bed, longing for sleep, but the suitcase is not strong enough to hold the door closed. I find another suitcase full of old clothes in the laundry and place this behind the door too. I retrieve a sleeping pill from my bag, and finally drift into unconsciousness.

At six am light pierces through the crack in the blinds and I put my hand to my temple. I feel the familiar distended vein and recognize the throbbing sensation of the onset of a migraine. I gulp paracetamol down to no avail.

I ring the doctor’s clinic at 8 am, and am offered an appointment via Telehealth. The doctor texts me a prescription. I forward this to Alex. He phones me, and I savour his resonant tone and carefully articulated speech. I am no longer aware of any pain. Alex promises to visit the pharmacy and bring me the medicine.

I am dreading another night on my own so I broach the subject of Alex visiting me overnight to Mum. I know forty years ago it would have been an impossible question, but this time she is happy for me, and acquiesces. She remembers him as a youth, and has tuned into his radio appearances over the years. I think she will welcome his visit almost as much as I do. Alex makes a plan to leave Jeremy overnight. After Jeremy has entered the shower he calls out goodnight to him, and then sneaks out through the back door and drives to Mum’s house. He texts me at 11 pm and I let him in. We retreat to my childhood bedroom and I fall asleep as he cups his body around mine, rubs his whiskers against my cheek, and breathes gently in my ear, once again.

Alex comes over to Mum’s house to stay with me for two more nights. My headache has subsided and I do not need to open the packet of medicine. Finally the boat is ready and the weather is calm. Months of preparation in anticipation of the trip have paid off. It’s six am as Alex plants his lips on mine and says his familiar “Love you.” I accompany Alex to the front door of Mum’s house. The ocean beckons and he sets off to explore islands and coves, and make use of his instinctive sense of wind direction. I determine to be stoic, to enjoy the sea vicariously, as I wait for his return.


Pillow Talking is produced, narrated and edited by me, Violeta Balhas, from stories by you, the listeners and pillow talkers. Music is by Radovan Jekic. This episode’s stories were:

The Tears of A White Woman by Sally

Clinical Blues by Ejiro Elizabeth Edward

Crushed Soul by Sarah Victoria


The Storm Within by Sarah Somerset

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On the next episode of Pillow Talking, Suddenly, Strangers. Stories about those moments when the person you thought you knew pivots to show a facet that renders them completely new and unknown. Until then, please take care of yourselves. And each other.