On a bench along the bay behind San Francisco's Ferry Building, Mustafa relaxes in the sunshine enjoying his cigarette. "You smoke?" he asks. When the answer is no, he politely inquires, "I hope is okay for me to smoke?" His bicycle is chained to the fence in front of him; he is wearing his bike helmet, khaki pants, and a crisp blue and white striped shirt. When asked his age, Mustafa laughs and says, "Ah, too old. Sixty-six." One would never know from looking at him; he is fit and trim, and easily appears to be ten years younger. He smiles serenely, seeming incapable of not doing so.
Mustafa arrived in the United States from Damascus, Syria eleven years ago. "I like life here," he says. What do you like about it? "Everything! I have good job here. I am a good tailor. I am designer. I do custom. I make shirts, I make pants." This explains the high quality of the shirt that he is wearing. He and his partner run their business out of a shop in San Francisco's Union Square, but right now he is on a break. What do you like to do when you're not working? "My bike, that's healthy thing." On especially nice days, Mustafa takes his bike on board the ferry across the bay to Sausalito and rides around there. He also has a membership at a gym, where he uses the steam room, Jacuzzi, and "I run on the machine there. To be healthy guy." But you also smoke. Do you see any contradiction there? "I'm not a smoker. Sometime I smoke, like, every day once. Sometimes no smoke."
As he lights his third cigarette, Mustafa says that he has been waiting for his green card for nine years. The process is dragging on because of "what happened on September 11th" and concerns that he may have terrorist ties. Do you have family here in the States? The smile remains on his face, but his eyes grow sad. "My wife still in Syria. I have four sons, two daughters. I have eleven grandchildren", ranging in age from 17 to 3. “They don't know me. I miss everybody." There's no way you can go visit them? "If I go there, I can't come back. Every day I call them and they are okay. Yesterday my grandkids, they say, 'When you coming back?' I say I don't know. And I like to live here, but see my situation? Very, very hard."
The conversation ends, and Mustafa suggests, “You make good money with my story?” He is reminded that the story is not being written for money, but rather for a college course. "But is good story, no?" His smile grows broader and he extends his hand for a farewell shake. His break about over, he prepares to ride his bike up over the hilly streets back to his tailor shop, to continue working. And waiting.