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Fermina cannot bear the sight of her dead husband's belongings, and burns them all in a bonfire. After three weeks of widowhood, she begins to feel better, but she is haunted by thoughts of Florentino, enraged by his thoughtless profession of love for her at her husband's wake. During those same three weeks, Florentino hears a man on the street singing a song that provokes thoughts of death: I came back from the bridge bathed in tears. He thinks of going either to América or to Leona to relieve his suffering, but ultimately visits Prudencia Pitre, the Widow of Two. Both Florentino and Prudencia are shocked at how much the other has aged. He casually asks her what she would do if someone were to propose marriage to her, and she deftly infers that he is speaking about Fermina. Frightened by her accuracy, Florentino tells her that he is actually speaking of her, but Prudencia tells him to say what he means, though he dodges her prompt.
The next morning, Florentino wakes to see the reflection of Fermina Daza in the mirror he had seen her in and purchased at the inn. He takes América to an ice cream shop and explains to her that he is going to marry, but she laughs, saying that old men do not marry. He plans to write Fermina a letter of apology that night, but returns home to find her hateful letter. He reads it many times, after which he lies still, more dead than a dead man, for hours. Florentino is not hurt by the hateful letter, but glad for the opportunity to reply. He types and sends to Fermina the most rational letter he has ever penned. In reply, Fermina begs his pardon for her curses, and apologizes that she has nothing more modern but her pen to write with. In his following, daily letters, Florentino is careful not to evoke nostalgia, and writes to her a meditation on life and relationships, which he had intended to write as the complement to his book, Lover's Companion. América resents Florentino for his refusal to continue being her lover, namely because he gives her no reason for the sudden change. When Florentino finds her typing in his bedroom, she seduces him, but in bed, he pushes her away, warning her that they have no condoms. América vows to track down the other woman. Florentino, however, thinks that América has accepted his rejection of her.
One year after Urbino's death, Florentino attends the memorial mass in the Doctor's honor. After the ceremony, Fermina, smiling, thanks him for coming. Fermina reads Florentino's letters with interest, for they help her to overcome her grief. When Fermina is desperate for her husband, she sees him, not as an apparition, but as flesh and blood. Once Fermina feels she is capable of ruling the house, she becomes close friends with Lucretia del Real del Obispo, who visits her often. After receiving a handwritten letter from Florentino, Fermina asks Lucrecia what she thinks of him. Lucrecia repeats the common gossip that Florentino has never slept with a woman, and that he seduces the boys he meets at the dock. Lucrecia concludes, however, that he is an honorable and tactful man.
For two weeks, Florentino does not write letters to Fermina. At the end of the second week, however, he arrives at her house uninvited. Fermina composes herself and welcomes him inside, but Florentino, seized suddenly stomach pains, fears that he will not be able to control his bowels, and begs Fermina to let him see her the next day. Puzzled, Fermina sets a date to see him later. He returns to see her, and during the visit, Fermina receives a letter Florentino has sent her. Florentino asks that she not open that particular letter, for he had written it to excuse himself from the embarrassment of his last visit. Fermina complies, and invites him to return whenever he likes.
When Florentino returns to Fermina's house, he alludes to their past and upsets her. She returns the letters he has written her, and when he asks if he may return the following Tuesday, she replies that there would be no sense in his visiting again. Despite her reaction, Florentino returns, and his visits become weekly. Once more Florentino refers to the past when he recalls the camellias he had given Fermina in their youth. She does not get angry, but blushes, and they laugh.
The novel's final chapter explores the ideas of death and aging. The death of Dr. Urbino serves as the catalyst for her cordial reunion with Florentino, which Florentino has long anticipated. The song that Florentino hears in the street also relates to the idea of death. The song's lyrics, I came back from the bridge bathed in tears, immediately provoke disturbing thoughts of death, possibly because the lyrics seem to imply thoughts of suicide and intense sadnes. Florentino hears these lyrics and possibly thinks of taking his own life, for he is so burdened with suffering at not yet having received a reply from Fermina.
Florentino's character is directly associated with death after he has finally received Fermina's reply. He lies absolutely still in bed, "more dead than a dead man," for he is stunned both by her vicious prose and that she had bothered to reply at all. Indeed, a part of Florentino is dead upon receiving Fermina's reply, for any hope of immediate reconnection with her has been ruined by her curses. Florentino is growing very old, as is Fermina, and must now suffer the injustices of old age, as he once had to suffer the injustices of his youth. There is much bias against the elderly, and there exists a hurtful stereotype that any older person is limited, both in physical and mental capacities. When América laughs at Florentino's sober news that he intends to marry, she cannot take him seriously only because he is an old man, and in her own view, and in popular belief as well , old men (and women) simply do not — cannot — marry; for to be in love after mid-life seems against some unwritten social rule, and is therefore regarded as a mere joke.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Love in the Time of Cholera!