That night, Jake goes to meet Brett at a hotel. She stands him up. After looking around for her a little bit, Jake decides to go to a café, the Select. He gets into a cab and, on the way to the café, crosses the river and watches the barges and notes that it's "pleasant crossing bridges in Paris."
Brett never follows social conventions, such as showing up for appointments. She does what she wants. Seeing the water brings pleasure to Jake. It's a reminder of nature amid the city.
The taxi comes to a certain boulevard that Jake always finds "dull riding." Jake thinks that it must be some "association of ideas" that makes parts of journeys dull, and guesses that probably something he read in a book is affecting him now.
The associations of ideas are dangerous for Jake. He is always trying to avoid thinking or remembering, but one idea leading to the next can bring him back without him realizing it to thinking about things he wants to avoid.
At the Select, he finds a friend of his, Harvey Stone, who says he's been looking for Jake. Jake asks him about the States, but Harvey says he's heard nothing and is "through with them." He then confesses that he hasn't eaten for five days, and is broke. Even though Harvey beat Jake at poker three days earlier and won two hundred francs, Jake offers him a hundred. Harvey accepts, and they have a drink.
Harvey is another of the "writers and artists" who neither writes nor produces art. He's unstable, unhealthy, doing nothing in Europe but completely disconnected from the United States, his home. Both he and Jake treat relationships as a transaction, as a thing to get you what you want, whether it's money or distraction.
As the two of them talk and drink, they spot Cohn, who is waiting for Frances. Harvey insults Cohn, calling him a moron, and then asks him about what he would choose to do if he could do anything. When Cohn tentatively decides on football, Harvey takes back the "moron" comment and decides instead that Cohn is a case of "arrested development." Cohn warns that someone will hit him in the face one day. Harvey says it doesn't matter, that Cohn means nothing to him. Jake tries to offer him another drink but Harvey leaves.
Harvey and Cohn's insecurities come up against each other. Harvey mocks Cohn, but Cohn is the only one who is writing. Harvey further laughs at Cohn's belief in football as something worth spending your life doing, but is Harvey's constant drunkenness any more mature? Harvey's insistence that Cohn doesn't matter is undermined by his obvious preoccupation with him. For his part, Cohn says that someone should punch Harvey, but he holds on to his sense of honor and doesn't do it himself.
Cohn says his writing isn't going very well, that it's harder than the first time. Jake, as narrator, comments that until Cohn fell in love with Brett, he was good at sports and had a boyish, cheerful "undergraduate quality." He had been trained by both Princeton and the two women in his life, but this cheerfulness had not been trained out of him. He loved to win tennis games, for example, but stopped winning when he met Brett.
Insecurity and judgment fill the air around the male characters. Jake, like all of the other male war veterans, see Cohn's lack of skepticism as juvenile and immature. Jake then connects Cohn's loss of cheerfulness and optimism as connected to a loss of athletic success, and implies that all of these losses occur because he falls in love with Brett, making everything else seem less meaningful.
Frances arrives, and asks to speak privately with Jake. When they're alone, she tells Jake that Cohn has refused to marry her, saying that he just can't do it. She worries that no one will marry her now because she's too old, and adds that she won't even get alimony from her first husband because she divorced him as quickly as possible in order to be with Robert. Jake offers cautious sympathy, and Frances adds that the real reason Cohn won't marry her is because he wants to enjoy all the "chickens" that will flock to him when his book is a success.
To Frances, marriage means money and social capital. To Robert, it is literally a nightmare (remember his nightmare of saying "I can't do it" back in Jake's office in Chapter 2)? Yet Frances's ideas of why Cohn won't marry her seem incorrect. He doesn't seem all that interested in chasing women. He's still chasing love.
Back with Cohn, Frances, with obviously sarcastic cheerfulness, tells Jake that Cohn has given her two hundred francs and is sending her to England in order to get rid of her in a clean, easy way. Originally, she adds, Cohn was going to give her one hundred francs, but she made him give more. Frances continues to rant, and Jake eventually excuses himself, saying he has to go meet Harvey.