It is the early hours of night. Dark clouds drift wearily across the horizon. The moon, wrested from her slumber, casts a forlorn glance across her shoulder before settling her face to the east.

I sit in the darkness of a silent house, the glow of my screen reflecting pale shadows against my hands. I cannot sleep. Somewhere amidst the symphony of the night, a painful chord has struck against my chest. A certain name has been spoken, a hallowed grief has risen, and a buried memory has jolted me awake.

Long has it been since I have allowed myself to think upon this memory. Long has it been, since I have immersed myself in its waters: arms splayed outward, the weight of my body sinking, the roar of the current rising, the wild rush of the tide filling in the gaps of quiet until nothing remains before my eyes except that beautiful, singular moment when life as I knew it changed forever.

It was a night much like this one.

The sky is filled with the violet stillness of deep summer. I am nestled in the corner of a courtyard, my hands moving absentmindedly across the crimson carpet beneath me. My eyes and my heart are elsewhere, enraptured by the golden glow of a dome set like a mountain against the canvas of night.

I am thinking of everything I have, until now, thought to be true and firm in my life, and how I felt it collapse with the frailty of a dying wave around me in the instant when my gaze found yours. I am examining the expectations that I had built for my life like steady firmaments, and am watching them burn away from my skin like so much dead wood set ablaze by the sparking of my heart.

I am seeing myself clearly, for perhaps the first time in my life. As if with another’s eyes, I watch the ages and years of my life strip down before me, youth to childhood to birth; flesh to bones to pulsing clot of blood; mind to soul to presently bleeding heart.

Memories of my past and my present sway before me. I am filled with devastating thanks and overwhelming shame as I contemplate the peaks and valleys of my life. All pretense is lifted as you pull the veil of heedlessness from my eyes. You are here for joy, yes, you seem to say, but that cannot be it. You are here to feel it all, beauty and terror. You are here to see it both, your light and your darkness. You are here to see who you have been, and to figure out who you will become.

Anyone who has stayed awake through the night with someone that they love can bear witness: this velvet silence contains complexities so secret, so serene, that no daylight hour can compare. There is a river of honey which flows here that, once tasted, rips all semblance of sleep from the eyes. There is an unmatched elixir of grace which swirls in the mist before dawn — evaporating with the first touch of morning light.

Oh beloved of the beloved of the Beloved.

Oh Ali, Lion of God. Oh Ali, Commander of the Faithful. Oh Ali, the Leader of this weeping, lamenting admirer of yours. Ya Ali, ya Ali, ya Ali!

Just one moment, and you set my soul on fire.

Just one night, and the rest of my nights have been stripped of sleep. Rest has not come to these eyes since they have looked upon you. Ease has not come to these limbs since they have departed from you. Peace has not come to this heart since it has been unable to wail in abandon, to strike the chest in affliction, to empty its burdens to its Creator in the courtyard of His chosen Guide.

In what way can I convey this ache which has settled, deep in my bones? Language exhausts itself before finding the words.

Tell me, how else can I say it, better than this?

I miss you.

Oh, my Imam. I miss you.