Florentino attends the wake of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, and warns the doctor's son to reschedule the funeral, because it's going to rain. They ignore his advice, and he is one of the few to attend the funeral in the downpour.
Florentino makes himself useful at the wake. When the last guests have gone, he confesses his undying love for the widow, Fermina Daza. Fermina tells him off, and he leaves.
Flashback to over fifty years earlier: Florentino is a sentimental teenager who lives with his mom and works as a telegraph operator.
Florentino delivers a telegram to Lorenzo Daza and falls in love with his daughter.
Florentino sits in the park and watches Fermina as she walks to and from school every day.
He begins to write Fermina a letter, but can't figure out how to deliver it. When the letter reaches sixty pages, Florentino asks his mom for advice.
Florentino nearly bumps into Fermina at Christmas Mass.
When Fermina's chaperone leaves her unattended one afternoon, Florentino approaches her and asks her to accept a letter from him. He begs her to get her father's permission, saying that it is a matter of life and death.
Fermina finally accepts Florentino's letter. While he waits for a response, Florentino becomes sick with what looks like cholera, but it's just lovesickness.
Florentino's friend takes him to a brothel and tries to convince him to lose his virginity, but Florentino refuses. Florentino uses the rooms in the hotel to read poetry.
Florentino plays violin at church so he can have a better view of Fermina. When he tries to serenade her from the choir loft, he gets kicked out.
Florentino drinks a bottle of cologne because it smells like Fermina.
Tired of waiting for her response, Florentino approaches Fermina and demands an answer.
Florentino finally receives a response from Fermina and is so happy that he starts eating roses.
Florentino and Fermina keep up a passionate correspondence. Florentino stays up all night writing his letters.
Florentino serenades Fermina with a waltz he has written for her, called "The Crowned Goddess."
One night, as he is playing his serenade, Florentino is arrested and taken to jail for violating curfew. He takes satisfaction in the experience because he likes suffering for love.
After two years of writing letters, Florentino proposes marriage to Fermina.
Florentino begins to spend a lot of time at the hotel, where he has his own room. A woman who works there propositions him, but he refuses.
Florentino receives a visit from Lorenzo Daza, who has discovered his daughter's stash of letters. Lorenzo threatens to shoot Florentino if he doesn't stay away from his daughter.
Florentino telegraphs Fermina while she's in the country with her cousins. The couple plans to marry as soon as Fermina returns.
Florentino becomes obsessed with the story of a sunken Spanish galleon and hires a diver named Euclides to help him look for hidden treasure. Euclides tries to take advantage of the gullible Florentino.
When Fermina comes back, Florentino sees her going to market and follows her. He approaches her in the Arcade of Scribes. When Fermina sees him, she falls out of love with him.
Florentino writes desperate letters to Fermina, begging her to take him back, but she refuses and returns his letters. Eventually Florentino desists and returns everything Fermina has given him.
Florentino doesn't have another chance to speak to Fermina alone for fifty-one years, nine months, and four days, when he repeats his vow of undying love at her husband's wake.
Florentino helps Fermina's cousin Hildebranda send telegrams to her secret lover in the country.
Florentino finds out that Fermina is to be married to Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Florentino's uncle gets him a job in a remote town, in the hopes that he will be able to forget Fermina.
The night before he leaves town, Florentino stands in front of Fermina's house and plays the serenade he wrote for her.
Florentino leaves on a riverboat the next morning. He agrees to give up his cabin for an English diplomat and this family.
Florentino has sex for the first time when a stranger pulls him into a cabin and makes love to him, without revealing her identity. Florentino develops a theory that the mysterious woman is a fellow passenger named Rosalba and starts to think maybe sex will help him forget about Fermina.
Florentino makes himself sick with jealousy on the day that he believes to be Fermina's wedding day. The ship's doctor quarantines him.
Florentino recovers, and refuses to take the job in the remote town. He returns home and swears never again to leave the city of Fermina Daza.
Florentino begins an affair with the Widow Nazaret and starts pursuing other women. He records his sexual conquests in a book.
Two years later, Fermina returns from her honeymoon. Florentino sees her and her husband in church. Fermina is pregnant. Florentino feels inferior.
Determined to become worthy of Fermina, Florentino asks his uncle for a job at the River Company of the Caribbean. He works hard and starts getting promoted.
Florentino's uncle tells him stories about his dad, and we learn a little more about Florentino's family situation growing up.
Florentino starts writing love letters for the illiterate in the Arcade of Scribes, free of charge.
He also writes a collection of love letters called a Lover's Companion, which is never published.
Florentino convinces his mom to buy the building that they live in and fix it up in preparation for his life with Fermina.
Florentino keeps up his active love life, but keeps his affairs with women very discreet. Rumors begin to circulate that he is gay.
Florentino has an affair with a woman named Ausencia Santander, the girlfriend of one of his friends. One day after sleeping together, he and Ausencia wake up to find that they've been robbed and the house emptied of furnishings.
Florentino starts to pick up girls on the trolley. He falls for a girl that he meets during Carnival, but she turns out to be an escapee from the insane asylum who has murdered her guards.
Florentino meets Leona Cassiani and gets her a job at the River Company. He and Leona become friends, but never lovers.
Dr. Urbino visits the River Company and Florentino has to entertain him in his office for ten minutes. Florentino realizes that he and Dr. Urbino share the same fate and is sad that the doctor will have to die in order for Florentino to be happy.
Florentino tries to confess his passion for the doctor's wife to Leona, but is unable to. He realizes he'll never be able to share his secret with anyone.
The narrative jumps back in time as Florentino remembers participating in Dr. Urbino's annual Poetic Festival, which he always hoped to win because Fermina read the names of the winners. After losing one year to a Chinese immigrant, Florentino is consoled by a woman named Sara Noriega, with whom he begins a five-year relationship. When he and Sara break up, Florentino goes back to being depressed about Fermina.
Florentino stops going out with girls as much, partially because his mom is sick and partially because a woman he was seeing named Olimpia Zuleta was murdered by her husband. Florentino worries that someone will learn about his part in the scandal because he doesn't want Fermina to know he's been unfaithful to her.
Florentino's mother dies, and he plants a rose bush on her grave. He plants one on Olimpia's grave, too, and the two rosebushes take over the cemetery.
Florentino buys a mirror from a restaurant after having watched Fermina Daza in it.
Florentino shakes hands with Fermina at a ceremony for the christening of a new boat and suspects that she still has feelings for him.
Florentino begins to take a carriage ride past Fermina's house every day. One day, his carriage breaks down in a rainstorm directly outside of the house, and a servant lets him wait on their patio.
Florentino visits the cemetery next to Fermina's church and finds that she already has a place laid in the Urbino family tomb, next to that of her husband.
Florentino hears a rumor that Fermina has gone to Panama to seek treatment for a serious illness. Hoping to learn more, he seeks out her father in the café where he used to play chess, but learns that Lorenzo Daza has died.
Two years after Fermina's disappearance, Florentino runs into her at the movies. That night, Florentino tries to make a move on his secretary, Leona Cassiani, but she refuses him.
Florentino loses his hair and his teeth.
Florentino gets caught hooking up at his office. His boss is relieved to find out that Florentino isn't gay and fixes up the office so that Florentino can be more comfortable when he brings his girlfriends there.
Florentino inherits the River Company of the Caribbean from his uncle and becomes President.
Florentino has an affair with fourteen-year-old América Vicuña, a young relative of his who he has been asked to chaperone while she studies in the city.
After making love one day, Florentino and América hear the bells of the cathedral tolling, and he learns that Dr. Urbino has died. He drops América off at school and goes to Dr. Urbino's wake. At the end of the night, he proclaims his love for Fermina.
Florentino makes himself ill with anticipation and two weeks later receives a letter from Fermina.
The narrative backtracks again. The night that Fermina kicks Florentino out of her house, he seeks out the company of an old girlfriend, Prudencia Pitre.
The next morning, Florentino tells América that he is going to marry and ends their affair.
Florentino receives Fermina's letter, but isn't discouraged that it's an angry letter.
He borrows a typewriter from work and changes his writing style, avoiding the passionate tone of his earlier letters. He writes to Fermina for six months, without receiving any response.
Florentino continues to see a couple of girlfriends, but he has stopped sleeping with América.
Florentino tries calling Fermina, but, when she answers, he hangs up.
Florentino attends a memorial mass in honor of Dr. Urbino and makes sure to sit in a spot where Fermina will see him. She greets him.
Florentino goes to Fermina's house, and she receives him. He's so nervous, though, that he has an attack of diarrhea and barely manages to escape the house without embarrassing himself. He arranges to make another visit in two days.
Florentino returns in two days and begins to visit Fermina once a week.
Fermina's son invites Florentino to lunch and thanks him for keeping his mother company.
Florentino falls down the stairs and injures his leg. Bedridden, he has a telephone installed in his bedroom and tries to call Fermina, but she asks him not to call her. They keep up a correspondence by mail.
Florentino plans to send América to study in Alabama once she has completed her final examinations.
Florentino writes a letter to the editors of the tabloid that published defamatory articles about Fermina's family members, for which she is grateful.
Florentino invites Fermina to take a riverboat cruise and ends up going with her. Florentino woos Fermina and starts to make progress.
Florentino receives news that América Vicuña has killed herself after failing her final exams. He determines that no one knows about his sexual involvement with the girl and decides to avoid thinking about her so that he can go on living.
Florentino and Fermina attempt making love, but it doesn't go very well. He lies and tells Fermina that he's remained a virgin for her.
To protect Fermina from scandal, Florentino asks the captain of the boat to make the return voyage without passengers or cargo, and without making any stops. They sail, flying a yellow flag that signals cholera on board.
The night before they arrive home, Florentino and Fermina make love again, and this time it goes well. They are very much in love.
The day they are to arrive back in the city, Florentino is overwhelmed by grief for América's death. He locks himself in the bathroom and cries and admits to himself that he had loved her.
Florentino recommends to the Captain that they turn around and sail back to La Dorada. When the Captain asks Florentino how long he expects they can keep sailing back and forth, Florentino responds, "Forever" (6.239).