Eldis Sula ~ The Offer Letter

I get the offer let­ter for my new job while sit­ting in the hos­pi­tal with my grand­ma. She frac­tured her hip.

When it comes in, the first thing I think is how abrupt­ly I found this job. It’s been a year set off by my lay­off and a can­cer diag­no­sis that left my mom dead by Christmas.

But bare­ly three weeks since I con­nect­ed on LinkedIn with my old cowork­er, the HR woman at the com­pa­ny now hir­ing me, I get this offer letter.

My grand­moth­er sits upright in the hos­pi­tal bed. She eats from a plat­ter of cubed can­taloupe on the overbed table, pop­ping squares in her mouth one at a time, rolling them with her tongue and suck­ing out the juice. She spits the pulps into her hand and drops them in a pile on her plate.

The nurse comes in to take vitals. As my grand­ma works on the fruit, she’s trans­fixed on the TV above us. It’s tilt­ed so that it’s over­look­ing the room. CNN is on talk­ing about some­thing ter­ri­ble Trump said. The nurse asks me when my grandma’s last bow­el move­ment was.

I get close to her ear. “Nena,” I say in Albanian, “when was the last time you went to the bath­room? You pooped?”

This morn­ing,” she says.

This morn­ing,” I tell the nurse. I know that, but I want to be as explic­it as I can. By hos­pi­tal rules, I’m not allowed to be my grandmother’s trans­la­tor. In the morn­ing I told a nurse not to admin­is­ter any­thing to her for a few min­utes. I was going to grab some break­fast on the first floor.

When I got back a social work­er was wait­ing to lec­ture me about hos­pi­tal pol­i­cy, say­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers can’t serve as trans­la­tors and the hos­pi­tal has a spe­cial phone for that. I imag­ined my grand­moth­er star­ing at a doc­tor with a phone up to her bad ear. “That’s fine,” I said, “We are open to that option.” She left and I ate my scram­bled eggs, twist­ed and hunched in the visitor’s chair over the win­dowsill where I rest­ed my tray. Now, not to arouse more fuss, I try to trans­late as one-to-one and even-hand­ed­ly as possible.

The nurse drops an orange pill into a small plas­tic cup. “Stool soft­en­er,” she says, hold­ing it out to my grandma.

Grandma looks to me. I tell her what it is. “I don’t want it,” she says. “I’ve been going fine.”

She doesn’t want it,” I say. “She’s been regular.”

The nurse rolls her eyes like a bored angel in a Pre-Raphaelite paint­ing and turns with a sleepy shrug. She floats to the wall-mount­ed waste bin and dis­pos­es of the pill, which clat­ters inside.

I look back to the offer let­ter on my phone. It says I need to sign and send it back by Thursday EOD. Today’s Wednesday. Dad will be back at the hos­pi­tal by 2pm. I can send it back today, or maybe even tomor­row. What I’m think­ing about is just get­ting back home, and get­ting some rest.

Not that I didn’t sleep enough. My dad told me to give my grand­ma a Tylenol PM before bed. I did, and took two myself. We both slept through the night.

By the end of my mom’s six-week stay in the hos­pi­tal, there was bare­ly a moment dur­ing the nights when she didn’t need me to feed her ice chips or use a suc­tion wand to suck out the bile that rose from her stom­ach into her mouth. When I was able, I would steal away to the reclin­ing chair and strain my eyes shut for a three-minute block of cold sleep.


When my dad gets to the hos­pi­tal, the occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist is wrap­ping up a ses­sion, pack­ing a sock-wear­ing aid at the foot of the bed. Grandma doesn’t both­er with it, opt­ing instead to bend her knee up to her chest at a pre­car­i­ous tilt so she can slip on her hos­pi­tal booties.

What’s up, Baba,” I say.

Hey Lu,” he responds.

The occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist stuffs a reach­ing stick into her can­vas bag of rehab tools.

Have a good day,” she says, flash­ing a squin­ty smile before sling­ing the bag over her shoulder.

Hi, okay, thank you,” he stam­mers in English, his palm sus­pend­ed good­bye as she walks out.

He gives my grand­ma a kiss on the cheek, then sits in a chair where he fid­dles with a half-full bot­tle of Diet Coke.

How was last night?” he asks. “You sleep? Probably not.” He’s wear­ing a zipped-up hood­ie and a Nike cap with a white check.

I slept a lot. Six hours. Grandma too. Tylenol PM,” I say with a grin. “I gave her one. But then I took two.”

Eh huh,” he guffaws.

Eat this,” my grand­ma says to me, point­ing to the chick­en ten­ders the lunch ser­vice brought her. “Hurry up before they take them.” She doesn’t want my dad to eat them.

Eat them,” my dad says, nod­ding to the tenders.

It’s okay, I might start head­ing back,” I say. “Oh, I got that job.”

Oh you got it?” He hikes his brows up and angles his head. “Very good. What is it again?”

Yeah,” I say. “Entertainment news. Kardashians and stuff.”

Oh yeah?” He smiles soft­ly, twist­ing the Diet Coke bot­tle in his hands.

Yeah, I think it will be good for me. I want to learn how to write fast.”

That’s good,” he says. He jerks his head twice fast, then looks to my grand­ma, then out the window.

Yeah. I have to send the signed employ­er agree­ment by tomor­row. So I’ll do that, either tonight or tomorrow.”

Do that, get it back soon,” he says while gaz­ing out the win­dow, head askance.

I know, I will.”

I get up and kiss my grandma.

Okay, I love you. Feel bet­ter. The leg’s noth­ing,” I say.

Last night she cried and asked me if she’d ever be able to walk again. Surprised, I grinned, but catch­ing myself, snapped seri­ous, and soft­ly cupped her bony shoul­ders with my hands as I got close to her bad ear. “You’ll be get­ting around soon.”

I hug my dad and take the car keys.

I’ll see you guys later.”


In the park­ing lot I squint. I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in days. I pause at the curb by the main entrance, car­ry­ing a plas­tic bag hold­ing my phone charg­er and water bottle.

The park­ing lot is mas­sive. Finding the car feels daunt­ing. I imag­ine myself walk­ing along the end­less rows, check­ing every license plate down the hilled lot and still not find­ing ours.

I pull the keys from my pock­et and dou­ble-click the lock but­ton. The Corolla squawks back at me three rows down by a set of con­crete stairs. I walk over and start to side-step the hill beside them, but feel­ing it steep­er than it looks, pull back around the handrail and trot down the steps. I won­der how many peo­ple have done that before.

In the car, I look down at my clothes. I’m wear­ing my Nike hood­ie. It used to have a blue-green pea­cock hue but it’s been washed a lot. I used to throw it on for a night out. Now it’s teal. I wear it for hos­pi­tal stays and bus­es between Baltimore and New York.

I turn the engine on and look in the rearview mir­ror. My face stares pale­ly back, wispy curls at my tem­ples, eyes sagged.

On the dri­ve home, the free­way walls whish by. The sun pokes through the trees behind them. It’s all gold-col­ored, green and brown.


When I pull up to the McDonald’s dri­ve-thru I order and start tex­ting the fel­las. Goofing off.

I send short videos. Saying I’m gid­dy because I’m order­ing fast food. Saying I’m lis­ten­ing to emo music from high school. Saying “Kevin O’Leary, AKA Mr. Wonderful.”

Dude,” I say for one of them, “I’ve been in the hos­pi­tal for a long time.” I look at the cam­era, then delete the video.

When my food’s up I pay and say thanks. Pulling away, I take anoth­er video of me shov­ing fries in my mouth, chew­ing and glanc­ing back at the cam­era over and over while driving.


Back home I pull the car into the garage and walk in. The linoleum floor is spot­ted with a few small cracks near the side entrance. I step into the kitchen, where I find a pair of sweat­pants slung over a chair at the table, and rest the McDonald’s bag on the counter

Beyond the half wall sep­a­rat­ing the kitchen, the liv­ing room is a dump. The arms of the couch are depressed into a dent, and the car­pet is dingy and worn. Throughout the rooms on the first floor, the trop­i­cal fuch­sia, aqua and canary-yel­low paint that felt appro­pri­ate when my par­ents redec­o­rat­ed a decade ago sticks squalid­ly to the walls.

After kick­ing off my shoes, I grab a seltzer from the fridge, swipe my food off the counter and head into the liv­ing room. The couch is a mess, with sunken cush­ions and blan­kets tossed about. I drop the crum­bled bag on the TV din­ner tray and fluff the pil­lows that my dad leans into every­day, before lean­ing into them myself, stretch­ing out on the long sofa with my toes point­ing toward the TV.

I rus­tle the bag open and pull out my food. A McChicken, a McDouble, a large fry and a four-piece nugget. I snap open the tab on the seltzer and take a swig. The cold fizz is refresh­ing. Although I should have a lit­tle more water. I haven’t in a while.

I bite into the chick­en sand­wich and start mush­ing the food in my mouth. My face starts to get numb and warm the way it does every time I eat McDonald’s fast. With my free hand, I grab the remote and flip through the chan­nels on Albanian TV.

I land on some movie about a prin­ci­pal hav­ing an affair with a stu­dent. It’s American with Albanian sub­ti­tles, and even though it looks recent, I’m not sure what it is and have trou­ble pay­ing attention.

I click through a few more. A news­cast­er reports on claims of fraud in the last Albanian elec­tion. Click. A woman reveals the har­row­ing hard­ships she and her fam­i­ly face in their remote, under­served vil­lage. Click. A hus­band and wife bandy insults at each oth­er before a matron­ly judge on a court show.

Click click click. I blank out and after click­ing a few more, put the remote down and unwrap my McDouble and bite into it. I then shove a few fries in my mouth, and chew them and the burg­er all at once. While I wouldn’t say this is where I want to be, it’s some­where I don’t need to be, and there­fore, an immense relief from the hos­pi­tal, where I had to be since yes­ter­day when I got off the bus. I choose to be here on this couch, eat­ing McDonald’s, watch­ing and think­ing noth­ing at all.

I pull out my phone. No new mes­sages. I rest it on the TV din­ner tray in between my two sand­wich­es, then roll onto my side so my weight press­es onto my shoul­der. My legs are stacked on top of each oth­er and my cheek sinks into the limp pil­lows. I reach into the front pock­et of my teal hood­ie and pull out my dab pen.

With a click, the but­ton lights up blue. I take a puff. A small cough escapes me. I puff it a cou­ple more times. My throat tin­gles and my head light­ens up and I start to relax. For the first time all day, I’m not think­ing about hos­pi­tals. I for­get about my grand­ma. I for­get about the offer let­ter. I slip the pen back into my pock­et, and, for the sec­ond time in the last 24 hours, fall asleep in my hood­ie and jeans.


When I wake up the orange late-after­noon sun twin­kles between the slats on the blinds. I squint through my eyes, then peel them open and start awake with a stiff breath through my nose.

There are a few hours left until I have to go back to the hos­pi­tal. I imag­ine my dad in the room, try­ing to watch TV but get­ting inter­rupt­ed by my grandma’s fre­quent ques­tions. He’s like­ly shout­ing respons­es as she stares at him and nods, even though they both know she can’t hear.

I sit up on the couch and rub my eye with the ball of my palm. The Albanian newscaster’s voice hurts my head. I point the remote to the set and kill the volume.

When I pick up my phone, I see a new email from my soon-to-be boss.

I heard the fab­u­lous news!” she wrote. “I’m so excit­ed to have you join the team. Please do reply all when you get a chance on the offer let­ter email so we can spread the word to oth­er staffers about you coming!”

I read the short mes­sage over a few times. I stare at the car­pet. The room is silent with the TV on mute. I feel the screen flash over me from just a few feet away.

I glance back at my phone. I thought I had until tomor­row to respond, but it sounds like I should get it back soon­er. It’s 6pm. I’ll send the let­ter tonight.

The print­er is bro­ken. I’ll go to the Package Place near­by. It clos­es at 7pm. I’lI walk there, print out the offer let­ter, sign it and send it back since our printer’s broken.


I push open the door and step inside Package Place.

When I get to the counter and speak, my voice seems to drop to the ground and absorb into the trod­den brown car­pet like spilled water.

Hi,” I say to the own­er behind the counter. He doesn’t mind wait­ing a few sec­onds to respond so he can do a final scan of the print­out he’s examining.

I do a quick scan myself. Outgoing pack­ages are uneven­ly stacked by the door. A large yel­low­ing copy machine rests in the cor­ner. A plas­tic sleeve of 9‑by-12-inch envelopes is laid on the table.

How can I help you?” the own­er asks in a thick Eastern European accent as he rests his doc­u­ment on the counter.

I need to print out an offer let­ter for a new job,” I say. He pulls down his glass­es and stares at me with fur­rowed brows. “If I for­ward you the email, can you print it out?”

His brows relax to neu­tral. “Sure,” he nods.

Okay, great. Thank you.” I blink. “Well, can I have the email?”

He nods again, then turns to his com­put­er and taps the mouse with his hand so the plas­ma screen flick­ers on.

As we silent­ly wait togeth­er, I try to remem­ber his nation­al­i­ty. I want to say Bosnian, but I know that’s not it. My dad told me once before. My fam­i­ly has come here spo­rad­i­cal­ly over the years, some­times to mail the occa­sion­al pack­age, but main­ly to get affi­davits notarized.

Every three years, my par­ents would hand write per­mis­sion on blank print­er paper autho­riz­ing my mom’s broth­er to with­draw their and my grandmother’s accrued retire­ment pen­sions in Albania. They would bring the hand­writ­ten notes to Package Place, where my mom would sign them, and the own­er, also a cer­ti­fied notary, would press a dry stamp onto the scrib­bled-on sheets to legal­ize them for use at the bank in Fier, my mom’s hometown.

The last time we did it was when they found my mom’s tumor. She knew she was about to need a lot of mon­ey because she wouldn’t be able to work. She also knew she didn’t have much mon­ey, so she tried to think of ways she could still work. At first she thought of refus­ing her cur­rent full-time sched­ule, includ­ing a 12-hour shift every oth­er Saturday, at the suit store where she did alter­ations in the back. She would be stern with her boss and insist on only work­ing 15 or 20 hours a week while going through treat­ment. Then we learned that the can­cer had already spread from her stom­ach to her uterus. The treat­ment, if it was even pos­si­ble, prob­a­bly wouldn’t do any­thing at all. She retired, need­ing Medicaid because she wasn’t insured. Six weeks lat­er she was bedrid­den. After anoth­er six, she died.

Now I’m back in Package Place, one year lat­er, accept­ing a job. The own­er turns his com­put­er screen towards me so I can see the email address.

Okay, there it is,” he points.

I type it into Gmail and for­ward him the offer let­ter. He prints it out and hands me the sheet.

Great,” I say, “great.”

I stand there, star­ing at the paper in my hands. I skim it briefly but know I have to sign it. It’s typed in Calibri, the default font in Microsoft Word. The company’s let­ter­head is a left-set logo at the top of the page. The bot­tom of the let­ter is already signed with a pho­to of the HR woman’s sig­na­ture, a blur­ry crop of a cell-phone pic crude­ly affixed above her print­ed name and title. Below it is the phrase “Accepted and Agreed:” fol­lowed by a line where my sig­na­ture and the date go.

Do you have a pen?” I ask the Package Place owner.

Sure,” he says, hold­ing out a Bic. I grab it and mind­less­ly start to shuf­fle a few steps toward a counter by the entrance. Then I stop and piv­ot, real­iz­ing I can just sign the let­ter at the counter where I stand.

When I put the pen to the paper, I feel my face get numb and warm like it did when I ate McDonald’s ear­li­er. With a few scratch­es and taps of the ball­point, the let­ter is signed.

Okay, thanks so much for the help,” I tell the own­er. He tells me what I owe and I pay with my cred­it card.

I snap a pho­to of the signed let­ter with my phone. Then I stand to the side, email­ing the pho­to to the HR woman with a note attached. Here it is, I write, let me know if you need the hard copy, I’m excit­ed to work with every­one and don’t hes­i­tate to reach out if you have any questions.

Have a great day,” I say to the owner.

You too,” he nods.

I grab the ribbed met­al han­dle and pull open the front door to step out­side into the shop­ping plaza.


The emp­ty park­ing lot feels pre­his­toric. It instills the same sense of mys­tery in me as a vast canyon val­ley. It’s most­ly emp­ty this late after­noon, dot­ted with cars.

I walk on the cement curb, pass­ing the entrance of the Giant Foods that used to take up most of the plaza. It relo­cat­ed a few months ago, leav­ing behind the husk of a red-brick gro­cery store build­ing. The offer let­ter, fold­ed in my hand, flit­ters in the wind.

The white-yel­low light of the McDonald’s I ordered from ear­li­er glows in an adja­cent park­ing lot. I walk through it and cross the road to a steep street lead­ing to the high school up the hill from my family’s house. As I ascend, I stare down at my shuf­fling feet and rack my brain for ideas on how to make mon­ey oth­er than the job I’ve just accept­ed via offer let­ter. I hear a hum and look up. A Range Rover roams down the steep path. I dodge it, stum­bling my way onto the sidewalk.

At the top of the street, I stop at a long stair­case behind the school. The steps lead down to a clay-col­ored track encir­cling a foot­ball field, all washed in the orange light of sun­set. Suddenly the next few months of my life unfold before me. Do the math, I think. Unemployed for twelve months. It’ll be one more year at this job, easy. Probably two. Likely longer.

I recall my inter­view with my now-boss. I got laid off, I said, then my mom got sick and died, so I took a full year off. It was dif­fi­cult, I said, but the tim­ing was good because I was able to be with my fam­i­ly, which was true. Now, I went on, I was ready to work some­where where I could be pro­lif­ic and go into work­horse mode.

I close my eyes and feel my head swell with phras­es from my new boss’s email. “Please do reply.” “When you get a chance.” “What’s the sta­tus,” I imag­ine my boss, over­worked her­self, Slacking me late one night in the not-so-dis­tant future, ask­ing for an update on an arti­cle. I see myself, tense, peck­ing out “Khloé Kardashian Buys Niece Stormi Webster $15,000 Hermès Bag.”

My face feels flush as I stare into my eye­lids. I breathe in and out of my nose, then open my eyes and turn my back on the broad view of the track and field. I start walk­ing. The sun casts long shad­ows of zelko­vas plant­ed along the top of the hill above the park­ing lot that I have to cut through. I bet­ter get home. I have to be back at the hos­pi­tal soon.


Eldis Sula is a writer liv­ing in New York. His work has appeared in Leveler, Potluck and Dispatches from the Poetry Wars.