After returning to Cambridge, Nash begins to make frequent visits to the quiet music library to study, where he often interacts with the music librarian at the front desk. One day, he notices a young woman who had been his student is now working behind the desk: this is 21-year-old Alicia Larde, a “delicate and feminine” young woman. Alicia’s family—bourgeois, upper-class, and well-educated—was from San Salvador, and Alicia and her parents moved to Atlanta in 1944, during an insurrection against the dictator Hernandez Martinez. They later settled in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Alicia’s father worked as a doctor. The Lardes then moved to New York, following Alicia’s uncle, who had settled in the United States before them.
Back in Cambridge, Nash meets the woman who will become his wife, Alicia Larde. Unlike Eleanor, Alicia is of Nash’s own social class.
Alicia dreams of becoming a “modern-day Marie Curie.” In her senior year of high school, she is accepted to MIT to study physics—one of seventeen women and two female physics majors in the class of 1955. At MIT in the early 1950s, women are able to juggle a number of pursuits: they are able to study science, form alliances with other women scientists, and meet male love interests. Alicia finds her courses difficult but manages to scrape by with a C-average in her freshman year.
As a MIT student, Alicia possesses uncommon intelligence: this seems to make her a better match for Nash, who tends to judge others severely for their class statuses and level of education.
During her sophomore year, Alicia takes a course taught by John Nash, whose good looks and reputation as a genius catch her eye: Alicia would later call her attraction to him “a little bit of a hero worship thing.” When Nash begins coming to the music library where Alicia works, she engages him in conversation, hoping to spark a connection between them. Though Alicia wants to become a famous scientist, she believes that marriage to an “illustrious man” “might also satisfy her ambitions.”
By describing Alicia’s belief that marrying an “illustrious man” like Nash might satisfy her, Nasar foreshadows a development to come: later in her life, Alicia will sacrifice her career to help Nash recover from schizophrenia. Though Alicia loves Nash deeply and is satisfied to devote her life to him, she does so at the expense of her own happiness and security—a major sacrifice that goes unnoticed by many in the Nashes’ orbit, including Nash himself.