What is Real?
By Catherine Sawers
I was rushing up second avenue
To catch a movie to review
When up comes this giant Hassid
In his trench coat and dark hues.
He said he wanted to ask me something
I said ‘Shoot, man. Do your bidding’
What he said next surprised me to my marrow
But he seemed far too serious to be kidding.
‘I need to do something real’
He said without angst or zeal
Then I noticed the sadness about him
That he was not afraid to reveal.
Now wait just a minute there, bro
I’ve heard piteous come-ons before
You’re not going to sow your wild oats here
We haven’t established that rapport.
Instead I said ‘Real, as opposed to fake?’
I’m afraid I don’t grasp what’s at stake
Now I’m intrigued and want to help
But of his query I don’t know what to make.
Then he asked where I was going
To third ave. for a movie screening
Does that answer your question, my friend?
God, I hope it’s sold out, I couldn’t help thinking.
What would people think if I showed up with him?
He’s lonely and three sheets to the wind,
He swerves on the sidewalk like a bumper-car
Yet his words and manners are disciplined.
‘I need to feel real’ he repeats
‘I need to get away from the poseurs and cheats’
So I ask him what he does for a living
‘I teach special needs kids from the streets.’
Well then, what are you worried about!
That’s about as real as you can get
Where is the moral dilemma here?
It seems like you’ve got it all set.
‘I don’t feel right. I don’t feel myself’
Apparently, I am now an expert in mental health
This guy picks me out of the entire East Village
To explore his moral crisis in depth.
I should be flattered, really
As the image of real in this crazy city
(Not the most competitive category to win
But I’ll obligingly claim the title anyway.)
We reach the cinema and I’m relieved to see
That he keeps walking as he says goodbye to me
Extricating myself could have been pretty awkward
If he thought a longer session was meant to be.
I’m left asking myself what is real
Certainly this man’s crisis and ordeal
I don’t think you can just make up something like that
Because I’d see right through his appeals.
I guess real is what you perceive it to be
It’s only when you accept this crisis that you are free
Better to ask yourself these questions as they arise
Than deny it and go on a shopping spree.
Believe it or not
This kind of thing happens a lot
It’s all in my day’s work
To help those in doubt and those who are fraught.
If walking with me helps ease the pain
I will gladly be there to do it again
I’ll exchange some of your discomfort for my serenity
Even if it means that I will feel kind of lame.