Florentino is majorly crushing on the young and gorgeous Fermina Daza, and he's succeeds in getting her to agree to marry him...eventually. We hate to say it, though, but he seems to like her a little more than she likes him.
Oh, snap! Not only does Fermina totally dump Florentino, but then she marries some other guy. Her new husband, Dr. Urbino, is cute, successful, and wildly popular, to make matters worse. Florentino resolves to wait until the doctor dies so that he and Fermina can be together.
Even though he's promised to always be true to Fermina Daza, Florentino doesn't see why he shouldn't enjoy himself while waiting for Fermina's husband to die. His affairs start to have some dark consequences, however – one woman is robbed while she's making love to him; another is murdered by her jealous husband.
Florentino's grand gesture on the night of Dr. Urbino's death doesn't go so well. Fermina angrily casts him out of the house and basically wishes him dead. Ouch.
Even though Fermina is super-angry with Florentino, he clings to the hope that she might forgive him. He writes her tons of letters, and she doesn't send them back – so that's progress, right?
Fermina does eventually forgive Florentino, and the two grow to be friends and, eventually, lovers. They take a sort of macabre honeymoon together on a riverboat that sails down a river of floating corpses. Florentino finds out that the last of his lovers, the teenage América Vicuña, has killed herself because of his abandonment of her.
Faced with the terrible prospect of returning to reality, Florentino convinces Fermina to cast off all of their wordly obligations and continue sailing up and down the river forever.