Nash meets Jack Bricker in 1952 in the MIT common room. Bricker is a first-year graduate student from New York who is friends with Newman and others, and he is immediately taken with Nash—not only because of his intellect, but also for his “southern breeding,” good looks, and confident demeanor. Bricker himself is from a poor background, and though he can be moody and sullen, he is often bright and engaging, too. Bricker catches Nash’s eye because of his “way of putting others at their ease,” and the two begin to play chess together: theirs is a friendship that grows to be more than a friendship, and they often openly display affection with each other, even in front of others.
After Thorson, Bricker is the second man who reciprocates Nash’s romantic feelings. Nash and Bricker begin a tumultuous affair, and Nash begins to publicly display some of the private feelings of same-sex attraction he has long repressed.
By falling in love with Bricker, Nash realizes that he is “no longer a thinking machine whose sole joys were cerebral”: though he is not “passionate” by nature, love serves to “modulate” his sense of detachment from the world. Yet Nash does not think of himself as homosexual: many other graduate students at Princeton also had same-sex relationships, though they considered themselves heterosexual, too.
Though Nash has always thought of himself as independent—and never as homosexual—falling in love with Bricker shows him just how much he needs other people in his life, helping to feel less disconnected from the world.
Bricker and Nash’s relationship quickly grows troubled. Later, Bricker would recall that Nash could be “beautifully sweet one moment and very bitter the next.” Bricker is unaware of Eleanor’s existence until Nash lets him in on the “secret” in the spring of 1952. Bricker—who begins to accompany Nash to dinners with Eleanor—is disturbed and worried by Nash’s treatment of his “mistress,” with whom he is often openly cruel. Bricker’s academic performance begins to suffer, and he eventually drops out of graduate school: “Nash’s game was just too painful to play any longer.” When Nash became ill in the 1960s, he sent many “disturbing” letters to Bricker, who evidently remained an important figure in his life.
Despite the bond that forms between Bricker and Nash, Bricker begins to feel burdened by Nash’s cruel behavior toward him and Eleanor, his “secret mistress.” Like Thorson, Bricker suffers because of Nash’s actions, though Nash does not seem to understand how severely he has affected Bricker.