Fermina is terrified of losing her virginity, and endures her wedding in sheer horror. The first night, aboard a ship to Europe, Fermina suffers terrible seasickness, and Urbino lends only his comfort. On the fourth night, after the storm has finally abated, the Doctor very gently coaxes Fermina into feeling comfortable, and educates her about the functions of their bodies. They disrobe and embrace, but it is not until the following night that they make love. After three months of lovemaking, Fermina has not conceived, and they undergo tests to see which of them is sterile. Unexpectedly, Fermina conceives, and thinks herself the happiest woman on earth. The Doctor does not marry Fermina because he loves her, but for her haughtiness and seriousness. He believes that in time, he will grow to love her.
Fermina returns from Europe with trunks of unusual treasures and fond memories, namely their glimpse of Oscar Wilde, the fire in Venice, and the opening of a play in Paris. Fermina had wanted to approach Wilde and ask him to sign her gazelle skin glove, for she had no book, but her husband had said that were she to approach the writer, he would die of mortification. In retrospect, Fermina claims that the marvels of Europe are nothing special.
Florentino's isolated encounter with Rosalba forever changes his thoughts on love and sex. Before the encounter, Florentino is adamant that he will lose his virginity with Fermina. However, when he is suddenly seized by Rosalba, he becomes vulnerable. Not only is Florentino young, impressionable, and sexually naive, but he has just relinquished all hope of ever attaining Fermina, for he is in the process of journeying to a faraway place, certain he will never see her again. Following his final, unrequited violin serenade under Fermina's window, Florentino is overcome by a feeling that he has already left his hometown, for he has been removed from Fermina and her affections, his one and only desire. It is this feeling of distance that is unbearable for Florentino, and, embittered by rejection and loss, he thus resolves never to return, for he cannot stand to face his memories of Fermina, nor the echoes of her searing refusal.
It is in this embittered, alienated state that Florentino is taken by Rosalba. In the heat of passion, he is overwhelmed by a sudden and intense physical pleasure, a pleasure so fulfilling that it is enough to alleviate the emotional pain he suffers from his tormented love of Fermina. As he thinks more of Rosalba, Florentino gradually begins to forget his memories of Fermina, and with the release of his memories comes freedom from his incessant longing, and the pain he feels for having been rejected by Fermina. For Florentino, Rosalba acts as an antidote to his pain, a transitory drug with which salves his aching, incurable wound. Following his brief affair with Rosalba, Florentino continually uses sex as an addict would use a narcotic. Sex is the one means by which he is able to forget his heartache and his desire for Fermina.
Florentino is strongly attracted to the Widow Nazaret because they share a common pain. Each has lost a lover for whom they pine, but cannot have. Like Florentino, the widow is lonely. Although she still dearly loves her dead husband, whose virtues she cannot stop naming even while she is in bed with Florentino, she finds happiness in sex. If she cannot be loved by the one man she desires, then she will find what pleasure she can with other men. Florentino's situation is nearly identical. He too is terribly lonely without Fermina, who, despite his rendezvous with other women, he still idolizes as his perfect love.