For the past three weeks, my wife has been in Vietnam, staying with my relatives in a small mountain village. It’s so surprising to the simple villagers to see a real Black person that they immediately go on to Facebook and update their Wall. She’s been having a great time absorbing the language and culture and telling people she’s related to Obama.

I, meanwhile, have been all alone. In the four years we’ve been together, we’ve only been apart a total of 40 days or so. Being a couple, you start to operate as a unit. You learn to use each other’s strengths and compensate for weaknesses. Decisions are made much more effectively and efficiently (i.e., she makes the decisions).

Still, even in the best relationships everyone yearns for some moments of solitude away from the partner. This is healthy and normal. So while I knew I would miss Jameelah, I was looking forward to some Huy time. After a few days left to my own devices, I’ve changed my mind.

Day 1: I dropped Jameelah off at the airport. “Remember,” I reminded her, “never look both ways before crossing the street. And don’t ever drink more than five coconuts in one day.” “OK,” she said, “while I’m gone, you better not have any women over.” I said OK. “And no men either.” I came home, feeling a paradoxical mix of loss and freedom, a feeling quickly resolved when I cooked a bag of edamame and realized I didn’t have to share. She always hogged the ones with the best distribution of salt!

During the next several days, I had to relearn how to be a single guy, which includes important things like microwaving ramen, sniffing laundry to see if it’s clean, and strategically using dishes for multiple meals to lessen dishwashing.

Day 5: the laundry ran out. Jameelah and I divide up the chores. I do most of the cooking and dishwashing, and she does the laundry and vacuuming. So I had no idea how to wash clothing. Knit/delicate/prewash? Warm-warm, hot-cold, cold-cold? The solution was obviously to go buy new clothing. But she does all the clothes buying! I, like many guys, hate shopping for clothing. I don’t even know how people buy clothing. I would sometimes just call her up and say, “Hey babe, on the way home from work, can you buy me three pounds of shirts?”

Day 7: Jameelah emailed back saying she was having a great time trying various tropical fruit and learning to ride a motorcycle and hoped I was doing OK. I couldn’t open a jar of Classico pasta sauce. She normally opens all the jars. Defeated, I ate a bag of edamame, but I couldn’t finish it all.

Soon, the solitude started settling in, a pervasive sense that something was missing: someone yelling at me for leaving the drawers open or something funny happened on TV. I turned instinctively to the corner of the couch to see if Jameelah was laughing too. She wasn’t there, just our Pillow Pet, a penguin. I turned back to the TV.

Day 12: Jameelah wrote to tell me she had been learning to cook all sorts of dishes and had finally been able to ride a motorcycle by herself. It had been so long now that I started developing a poetic, yearning language when I wrote her back: “Dear sweetheart,” I wrote, “the seasons are passing so swiftly, and I grow older…”

It is now day 21, and soon I’ll join her in Vietnam. It can’t be soon enough. I’m going out of my mind. I started calling our penguin Pillow Pet “Jameelah.” Something funny happened on TV. “Wasn’t that funny, baby?” I would ask the penguin. Yesterday I woke up and was unable to find my belt. I only have one belt, and I lose it all the time, and my wife is the only one who can find it. “Dear sweetheart,” I wrote, “how I long to be in your arms. Without you here, I can barely keep my pants up!” She wrote back today. Maybe being apart a little longer is not such a bad idea.

Look, an easy-to-remember website:

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