Thinking of John and Alicia invites a flood of memories for me - I felt I knew them, that I shared a spirit of loyalty. There was a rawness and a universality to John and Alicia - two humans whose bond was infallible and utterly fallible - and their shared greatness that touched a world over.
As a Princeton first year, I joined the cavalcade of frosh tadpoles signing-up for ECON 101. New to the Nash Equilibrium, and not entirely sure I understood it, my classmate and I I mustered the will to walk up to John one afternoon. Coincidentally, we found ourselves in a lonely corner near the Icahn Laboratory, and we weren't going to miss the chance, I was trepidatious, but brimming with energy. "Mr. Nash, so sorry to bother you, so honored to meet you, but I was hoping you could explain your theory for me, I was hoping you could explain the Nash equilibrium." We waited for his response. John was fitful and wanting to be on his way at first. But the simple question was enough. His large, gentle eyes focused on us, and I held my breath.
Watching a human talk about something he made, knowing so very well that it is his, is an enlightening thing. But when it's a human like John Nash, it's a defining moment. In a simple, almost child-like illustration, John explained his theory. He was patient, calm, and entirely sure of himself. It was clear, as he spoke, that genuine brilliance can be understood by everyone, even a toddler. John spoke with a kind of comfort that one might have when talking to oneself, blocking out fear, embarrassment, and pretension with shocking ease. It was all of five minutes or so, before John shuffled away. And we were left in a well-shaded corner, I thought "John Nash himself just made sense of the Nash equilibrium for me." I was invigorated.
I didn't know what I wanted in my life at the time, but I knew I wanted that - I wanted to create my mark and explain it to someone like Nash did his equilibrium for us. In only so many words, Nash made a discovery unfathomable for most, universal - even elementary in feel. It was as though anyone could harness it, if only they wanted to enough.
While waiting for the train one evening, several weeks later, Mr. Nash scuttled up to me, rather pale and seemingly concerned. "You look so similar to someone I know," he said. Somewhat stricken, I smiled and thanked him. We boarded the train together, and sat across from one another. We didn't talk much, but I remember talking about where I was going, and I remember that he smiled. When the train pulled into the station, we were the last to leave, and I got up, waiting for him. But he waited longer. "I have to be on my way Mr. Nash, thank you." Rather haphazardly, we found ourselves on the platform, and Mr. Nash afforded a long glance, an almost melancholy glance.
We would bump into each other surprisingly frequently from then on, and I would launch into nervous conversation. On one occasion, we found ourselves at the Princeton dinky several seasons later, and he asked me where I was from. "My parents are from Chile," I replied. He asked if I could speak Spanish, to which I said yes, and then he started talking about Alicia.
Knowing some of John meant knowing some of Alicia, at least that was my experience. Seeing John's sincerity, gentleness, and brilliance was coupled with seeing the selflessness, passion, intelligence, and grandness that was Alicia.
John explained that Alicia was from El Salvador, that she spoke Spanish. I asked if he spoke any Spanish - "a little", he nodded. The dinky pulled in rather briskly, Nash retreated into a solitary corner, and I returned to my classmate David.
I would see Alicia and Nash together several times after that - the last of which would be at my fourth reunion. I had a strong urge to speak with Alicia, a desperate desire, frankly. But the moment passed, I missed it.
I'll return to Princeton for my fifth soon, and I will be with David, the same classmate to walk up to Nash with me that first time.
As humans, we sometimes search for parallels in others. Sometimes we just feel them. With John and Alicia, I felt it, maybe because I could see something familiar in them, something all too comforting.
John and Alicia are as much a part of my time at Princeton as my dreams and wants were. Some moments in life can be intoxicating, and they stay with you. To lose John and Alicia makes me feel that I've lost something dear and important to me. But even so, it reminds me that one day, I hope to explain my equilibrium too, and I hope I'll have a great friend and confidante to do it with.