Another thing I find in Marquez is an ability to put the human element into a very relative form amid the routine lives of his characters, so that we understand their behavior in more traumatic events. I love this segment about Dr. Urbino and his wife, Fermina Daza in the early years of their marriage, which reveals a bit of gameplaying that endures in their relationship in condensed form in their early morning rising: he early, noisy; she later, pretending sleep. But it displays one of those turning points in a marriage where control and compromise is established:
The truth was they both played a game, mythical and perverse, but for all that, comforting; it was one of the many dangerouse pleasures of domestic love. But one of those trivial games almost ended the first thirty years of their life together, because one day there was no soap in the bathroom. (p. 17)
Marquez has injected a bit of humor here, and yet truth, as the biggest annoyances are usually over the smallest but most persistent aggravations. Dr. Urbino has risen and bathed in the dark of early morning, while Fermina is in her half-awake state in bed:
After a prolonged sound of starched linen in the darkness, Dr. Urbino said to himself: "I’ve been bathing for almost a week without any soap."
Then, fully awake, she remembered, and tossed and turned in fury with the world because in fact she had forgotten to replace the soap in the bathroom. She had noticed its absence three days earlier when she was already under the shower, and had planned to replace it afterward, but then she forgot until the next day, and on the third day the same thing happened again. The truth was that a week had not gone by, as he said to make her feel more guilty, but three unpardonable days, and her anger at being found out in a mistake maddened her. As always, she defended herself by attacking.
"Well I’ve bathed every day," she shouted, beside herself with rage, "and there’s always been soap."
Sound familiar? People, often fed up with other things that have accumulated over time, decide to take a stand and sadly, it’s often when they’re on the shakiest ground.
So Dr. Urbino and his wife carry this argument around for a while, allowing it to disturb their life much more that it should be allowed to do. Dr. Urbino, who for four months has been sleeping in the study, falls asleep one night on their bed while reading. Fermina attempts to wake him so that he will leave, but Dr. Urbino is only half awake and finds himself very comfortable in their bed.
"Let me stay here," he said. "There was soap."