At another time in history, Juanzetta would have been labeled a witch based on her nose alone, and her sense of smell would have got her burned. The last things she smelled would have been the sap-soaked vapor boiling from the still-damp wood, wet red fumes popping from the small animals trapped inside, the rough, acidic sting of smoke, and finally herself, digested by the flames in layers. And then she might have sneezed, and with her nose being what it is, that might have saved her.
Instead, she’s a nurse practitioner. She wears a surgical mask all shift, special order ones with a cloudy blue sky on them. She wears the masks because her face scares patients fresh out of anasthesia, and because the hospital is overwhelming. When humans are upset, near death, aroused, excited, they release chemicals to tell each other so. Most of us perceive these chemicals as inexplicable emotions, just “something in the air,” but Juanzetta can trace the something to its source, and decode it. She doesn’t like to do this in the hospital. It feels nosy.
Outside of the hospital, she’s a killer cook. At least, other people like her food. To her, it never lives up to the level she’s capable of perceiving. She is a good listener, though she’s practically deaf in one ear. She ignores the words and listens to what her partner’s pores are saying. She can smell a lie, can sniff out the truth, and always knows who dealt it.
“So why the hell do you work here?” her co-workers on the night shift ask her. They swear within earshot of the patients because it is a very busy hospital, and the patients understand. “You’ve got this beautiful fucking gift. You could go to med school and sniff out cancer, or be a baker, or … shit, design a line of perfumes. Why here?”
“Because,” says Juanzetta, a bit nasally through her mask, “I want to be known for something other than my god-damn nose.”
[Face by Soren Melville]