In 1958, Alicia discovers that she is pregnant. Though Alicia is dismayed—she had hoped to keep working for a few years—Nash is delighted, since he had hoped to start a family right away. At the same time, Nash is preoccupied with the future of his own career, since he is coming up for tenure at MIT in the winter. Nash begins to feel that he might not belong at MIT, and he is fielding a potential offer from the University of Chicago. Nash also begins to apply for grants for a sabbatical year, hoping to spend the spring term of 1959 at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in Paris.
Though Nash is “delighted” to become a father again, he is more concerned with the advancement of his own career, and worried that he might not achieve tenure at MIT: Nash continues to pay the most attention to his own life and pursuits.
In summer 1958, another brilliant young mathematician comes to MIT: Paul Cohen, who would later win both a Fields and a Bocher. Cohen is “self-obsessed, suspicious, aggressive, and charming by turns”—as “ambitious” and “arrogant” as Nash. The two men begin to challenge each other publicly, though Nash also serves as a kind of mentor to Cohen. He begins to drop hints to Cohen about his own homosexual desires, and soon, rumors spread around the department that Nash is in love with Cohen. Cohen is flattered, but he seems to think of Nash only as an intellectual sparring partner. Later, some will blame Nash’s mental breakdown on the “disappointed love” between the two men.
Nash’s romantic relationships with other men (including Bricker and Thorson) tended to be consuming and competitive, and his relationship with Paul Cohen is no different. Nash seems to have difficulty expressing his feelings for other men in healthy, productive, and transparent ways—instead, he “drops hints” and cruelly plays with their emotions.