He used me, he did. Blinking eyes and muting gazes all the while – I could see it all – it’s just that I thought it was sadness. And how can I tell them that I know now? How do I explain how I was used and that I feel used now, and not worthless, but less? How could I make anyone understand that it was the simplicity that kills me – that there was him and then nothing? And somehow there was less of me? And I gave it to him… I did. Handed it over, body and soul, with brave hands, because I thought I was being brave. And knowing this doesn’t make me regret it, but how can I be proud of it? I used him, I did. I wrote his name down and I crossed it off in watery, black ink. I ran my fingers through the drying liquid and smeared it above my eyes; I washed my hands and crawled into his bed.
Zora Neale Hurston is the literary gift that keeps giving. Arguably one the best writers of her time, of any time, she is remembered commonly as one of the preeminent writers of the Harlem Renaissance. She has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker and Toni Cade Bambara. She was a founder of FIRE!! magazine in 1926.
Hurston was almost lost to time, however. That is until author Alice Walker went looking for her grave and subsequently revived Hurston in the public imagination through her 1975 essay for Ms. magazine, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston.”
There is still so much, however, unknown about the life behind Hurston’s powerful voice. Most of what we know comes from her autobiography “Dust Tracks on a Road” and her semi-autobiographical master novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” From those works, Hurston has left us with powerful commentary on life. Here are a few of my favorites quotes.1. “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
2. “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
3. “I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
4. “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
5. “If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other folks then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding.”
6. “Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.”
7. “It seems to me that trying to live without friends is like milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee. It is a whole lot of trouble, and then not worth much after you get it.”
8. “Gods always behave like the people who make them.”
9. “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
10. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”