In Brookline, a Boston suburb so affluent most people need a PhD to live there, a brick building sits, unremarkable in every way except its size: it spans two full blocks and stands five stories tall. From the top floor, choppy waves of gambrel and Victorian rooftops flow out toward the hazy hills; in the distance, a few steeples stab the sky. And on the ground, a playground swings, plays tag, and scores baskets before resting for the evening, its expensive toys dreaming in the night shadows, unafraid of being stolen. From a place that may or may not be real, a piano strokes out the notes of a Dvorak sonata, floating over the rows of stately homes with their manicured lawns and exotic vegetation.

In this building, people don’t move out — they pass on.

Then there’s our building, expansive and manufactured, with its mummed and pansied gardens doing their best impression of a grandma’s front yard. And next to them, a population curious for these parts: the elderly with canes and walkers, young people in wheelchairs, and the ambulating poor, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, their faces reflecting the serenity of someone inhaling a gulp of fresh, apexed air. We are a “mixed use” Section 8 building, government housing without targeted restrictions, like being over 55 or having HIV. Translation: we are largely a collection of elderly Russian Jewish émigrés, disabled people, and impoverished blacks and whites, mostly ignored by our NIMBY, neoliberal neighbors.

I am the exception: in my 30s, Korean, adopted, alone. I moved in during the summer of 2012 from the hospice floor of a nursing home to live out the rest of my days. After depleting my options with Western medicine, I turned to a hallucinogenic tea from South America that dramatically improved my health though I still remained disabled, and I began to slowly meet people again.

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