Best Friends: The Deep Bond Between Next-Door Neighbors

A New Yorker shares how he and the woman in the next apartment learned to lean on each other.

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- Posted on Feb 26, 2021

Neighbors Stephen Wilder and Nicole Figaro; photo by Kerry Ryan

It started 30 years ago with a squirrel. A few months after I had moved into a building in downtown Manhattan, my next-door neighbor, Nicole Figaro, knocked, asking for help with a squirrel that had gotten into her apartment.

I scared out the critter and made a new friend. Soon Nicole was inviting me over for dinner or leaving home-cooked food at my door. When I went to my beach house, Nicole picked up my mail and watered my plants, and when she traveled as a flight attendant, I did the same for her. She’d bring me wonderful gifts from far-flung places, but her positivity and prayers have been the greatest gift of all.

In 1997, I took care of my partner during his final days, and it was Nicole who took care of me. Years later, I returned the favor, helping out when her ex-husband, who was ailing, came to stay with her. More and more, we drew strength and inspiration from each other.

My father passed away last January. Nicole helped my family prepare for the service. I couldn’t have gotten through that day without her. Then the pandemic hit. Nicole and I shopped for provisions and coordinated our errands, knowing we could get through anything together. And we will. A wall might separate our apartments, but nothing separates our hearts.

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