If Gabriel García Márquez Had Entered the Contest

by Gabriel García Márquez

Encouraged by that illusion, he dared to explore her withered neck with his fingertips, her bosom armored in metal stays, her hips with their decaying bones, her thighs with their aging veins. She accepted with pleasure, her eyes closed, but she did not tremble, and she smoked and drank at regular intervals. At last, when his caresses slid over her belly, she had enough anisette in her heart.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,” she said, “but let’s do it like grownups.”

She took him to the bedroom and, with the lights on, began to undress without false modesty. Florentino Ariza was on the bed, lying on his back and trying to regain control, once again not knowing what to do with the skin of the tiger he had slain. She said: “Don’t look.” He asked why without taking his eyes off the ceiling.

“Because you won’t like it,” she said.

Then he looked at her and saw her naked to her waist, just as he had imagined her. Her shoulders were wrinkled, her ribs were covered by a flabby skin as pale and cold as a frog’s. She covered her chest with the blouse she had just taken off, and she turned out the light. Then he sat up and began to undress in the darkness, throwing everything at her that he took off, while she tossed it back, dying of laughter.

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.

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