All Galen wants is for his friend, Navojan, a Milosian alien secretly hiding out on Earth, to give sushi a try. He doesn’t expect a mildly adventurous lunch to lead to the best nights (and mornings) of his life. After a disastrous love affair when he was younger, Galen isn’t looking for someone to fall in love with. Spending time with Navojan, discussing Earth literature, humor, and cuisine are just things friends do with one another. He never thought that Navojan would see him as something more than a friend … especially when he’s been having those same thoughts, himself.
Taking place in the not-so distant future, with the polar ice caps gone and the world suffering from the devastation of climate change, this short story starts with a very simple pair of questions: What would you do if you found out that your best friend wrote erotic fiction? And what would you do if you found out that you and your friend found the same things interesting, namely, each other?
Galen knows what it’s like to be alone. For all of their friendship, he hasn’t told Navojan everything about himself; his friend doesn’t even know that Galen used to be a surgeon. Galen has firmly left his past behind and only wants to focus on the here and now, and knowing that Navojan might have the same feelings for him that he has for the alien is … tempting. The first step is hard, and Galen isn’t certain if he’s able to take it.
Navojan has undergone surgery and training to be able to infiltrate and study Earth, but finds himself, more and more, feeling comfortable on this backwater planet. He misses home, yes, but his friendship with Galen helps fill in some of those dark spots. The only thing missing is someone to share his heart with, someone who will touch him, who can touch him, without seeing those bits and pieces that make him alien and inhuman, without selling him to some government agency for study.
The two of them are slightly more than colleagues, but not quite soul mates. Galen is the only human who knows what Navojan is, and the only doctor Navojan will turn to when he’s injured. Where Navojan trusts, Galen doesn’t. If it weren’t for Navojan making the first move, the two of them would be in a perpetual cycle of flirtation and lonely masturbation. So, Navojan writes erotica to set the mood, and then invites Galen over for a night of romance and sex. It’s kind of cute.
It’s hard to get to know characters in such a short story, and I never felt the personal chemistry, but the Milosian erotic poetry — highly explicit and less about the beauty of writing than the clarity of the image — is an interesting way to show us the differences between the two races and how they might view another person, and what they want out of that other person (and what positions they want to put that person in). I appreciated the idea and its inherent potential.