He looked out from the balcony of his apartment and drew from another cigarette. There was not much to look at at 2AM, each of the cars in the parking lot had frost on them, the streetlamp flickered between the two trees that looked like brooding gods, everyone else was asleep in the world except for the diligent ones, the insomniacs, and the drunks. At best he was two out of the three. The languid vapors of gin shivered like heatstroke in his head and the dizzying combination of nicotine sent him clutching against the railing for support, but he could not take his eyes off the night sky, even as the roller-coaster of sensation made his body feel as though it were on the undulating wave of some impending time on the far side of a blissful oblivion. What could be captivating in this world if not the night sky.
He could hear the music from the end credits of the third movie he had watched in a row wind on from the other side of the sliding glass door and he wondered if he was keeping his neighbors up. The chase scene and the dramatic death of the climax had only been a few moments ago, gunshots and yelling and emotion that had captivated him so thoroughly the rest of the world ceased to exist and there was only the world of dreams and possibility that film brought to him. He wondered if that kept anyone up, that the music now might be calm and soothing. After the end of movies the real world comes rushing back in so fast, and the thoughts of neighbors and the wasted day pinged against the walls of his meandering mind.
The details of it all, of life and everything returned like a storm that circled around him and he hated himself for having nothing to show for all that brooding and wondering and hoping and wishing, and noticing. He hated how he had not done something with his time, that he was letting his days slip by with no advancement, no achievement beyond his own self gratification. Drink, movie, masturbate and make food. The couch, the balcony for a cigarette, his bedroom. The work he had to do sent away and the obligations that weighed his soul down unfettered for glimpses and grasps at fantasy before they ended and it all returned like a stone.
He had spent some time trying to separate used cooking oil from water. Two chicken breasts had spent the previous night and day marinating in spices and some kind of glaze. The taste and scent of cooking them still lingered, but the oil had bubbled and burnt in the cast iron pan. The used cooking oil he had tried to distill into something that could be burned in a lamp. Heating it to get the water out, straining it, letting it separate, freezing it. He wanted something flammable to feel like he had done some kind of science, even going so far as to read online about the qualities of water and oil. But, it never got to that point and in his failure let the opaque brown fluid sit in a jam jar on the shelf over the kitchen sink.
The detail in which he went about this was only the minutia of someone very alone. Someone who was pining for something but afraid or too lazy to do it. He was fed up with the games that people play. Primitive games. But…Nothing deeper now welled within him, he was not at a loss, not regretful, just alive and between sleep and a living dream. Regret could wait for when time was no longer on his side, even as he lived the life of an old man, he was young and voices telling him to get out and enjoy life all sounded tired and played out, predictable and overplayed. What good were other people when their words and actions and emotions and thoughts were so easy to decipher.
Perhaps it was just him. He presently thought, that the reason the world seems so predictable, suffering through what he already knew or thought he knew was because of his own actions and trust and games that he played with the world. Perhaps that was why he was so alone. Perhaps it was all a big game played on him or he was playing the game with himself. It was so easy to break the 4th wall of his life, and the shuddering waves of reality surrounded him quite suddenly and the brick walls of the building, the parkinglot and the night sky and the passage of time became quite real and yet surreal in their appearance.
He turned his back to the clear stars and looked down at his last puff of cigarette, and then focused on his robe and scarf and then on the concrete floor of the balcony, the ashes tumbled away from him in the cold wind, ashes like days of his life, ashes from his once full cigarette.
He leaned back against the balcony railing.
He tilted his head back and felt his chest rub against the inside of his sweatshirt. He took the last puff. The music repeated itself over and over from within, it was sweet and beautiful and the feelings of that last movie lingered on him like the breath of nicotine and the fullness of his stomach and the scent of oil and the haze of gin.
The dizzy spell continued then, overcoming all the previous sensations and the railing pressed into his back. He felt like he was flying.
Then it ended. He flicked the butt behind his back and over the side. Stumbled forward and re-entered his apartment finding that the TV was too loud for 2AM.