The end of summer is a smell, a very specific and somewhat industrial odor.

You have been coasting along, month after month, lying under the poplars at the club waiting for a tennis court, riding your bicycle over unlined macadam roads to the homemade pool on your cousin's farm, with your bathing suit under your pants. Sitting on the porch at night watching fireflies. Lying flat on your back on the front lawn to count meteors in August. Wasting time. Throwing it away. Scattering minutes and hours and days and weeks without a backward glance -- a Rockefeller of time.

Now you begin to think wistfully of those first days in late June when school was just out and the whole summer stretched ahead, all the way to the horizon.

Oh well. When school starts, you think, it'll still be summer. We can still ride over to the club in the afternoon and get in a couple sets. And the weekends, they can't ever take the weekends away from us.

But suddenly, unbelievably, here it is: The First Day. And here is the school building, looming up at the end of the sidewalk. You enter the big double doors with a vague sense of doom.

And it hits you -- that newly polished smell. Floor wax, the same in every school in the world. Floor wax and chalk and brisk purpose.

With maybe the slightest trace of the peculiar airless smell of sandwiches in tin lunch boxes.

Then you know.

It's over.