What does reach across the table mean in this context?

I'm translating a novel and I came across this sentence which I'm not sure whether it means literally what it says or it has an implied meaning.

“I’m ashamed of myself. I’m older than you and such a fool. Thinking of myself as some Don Juan with a list of women to chose from. I... I... I don’t... I don’t know how to love. I only know how to be lonely and needy for love. I have no idea how to reach across the table and to return love. I have no idea how to reach across this table, Busra.”

Lonely Man Full of Love by Mauro Mevlud Martino, page 92.

In this context, both Busra and the speaker (Martin) are setting on a table.

2 Answers 2


I think the phrase combines some metaphorical and literal use at the same time. Martin does not mean that he doesn't know how to move his arms, but there is an actual table.

In English, "reach" (and especially "reach out") is often used to talk about connecting with other people in ways that are socially positive. In particular, the use we see here seems related to "reaching across the aisle", a metaphor for working together with someone even though you must overlook significant difference that separate you.

In this case, Martin seems to mean that there are obstacles between him and Busra—loneliness, personal problems with expressing or receiving love—and he uses the actual table that sits between them as a metaphor for these obstacles.

  • Is it best to translate it as it is (literally) as I can't find an equivalent in the target language?
    – Aseel
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 15:29
  • 1
    Yes, I'd say the metaphorical meanings are clear. It's not really an existing idiom, the way "reach across the aisle" is. Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 15:33

reach across the table means to make an effort to communicate something to someone.

The author spells it out: reach across the table and return love.

In other words, he doesn't know how to communicate his love to the other person.

  • He used the phrase twice: the first one has the meaning you explained, but the second one seems literal.
    – Aseel
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 15:39
  • @Aseel No, he just explains it the second time. This is a metaphor.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 16:29
  • Would you suggest to me translate the metaphor as it is or the meaning of it?
    – Aseel
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 18:21

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