"Fermina," he said, "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love."

Florentino Ariza makes this vow to Fermina Daza at the close of Chapter 1, when he approaches her at her husband's wake, just after most of the guests have departed. Indeed, he has waited fifty-one years, nine months, and four days to repeat to her his vow of "eternal fidelity and everlasting love," for he has dedicated his adult life to making himself worthy of her, and has waited patiently for the day of her husband's death, the day on which he, for over fifty years, plans to reiterate his undying passion for her. Since Fermina had rejected him out of hand, despite their plans for marriage, upon her return from a long journey, Florentino is determined to once again claim Fermina as his own. It is this second profession of love, over half a century following her rejection of him, which begins the novel's story of how Florentino and Fermina fall in love, out of love, and in love once again.