Nobody has to tell you summer's over.

There is a flat glare to July and August, the season of sweat and sensuality, everything right out there, not much to the imagination, and then one day the wind breathes across your shoulder and it's over, honey, it's gone.

It's something felt more than something seen, but no less real for the difference. You open the front door in the early light to pick up the morning paper, barefoot because it has been summer since forever. The bricks are cool underfoot. A twitch, somewhere in the DNA. Out front, two leaves in the cherry tree have gone yellow.

Pah, you say. Must need watering. Then, just over the weekend, you find a dozen more in the grass. That night you sleep with the AC off and the windows thrown open. Come daylight, the sheets are still crisp across the chest, not wilted and pushed below the waist.

The summer of '05 is over, honey, it's gone. The senses know it if the calendar doesn't, because summer is a mistress who always leaves you cold.

Of course, a couple of months ago, you never thought this possible. Mid-summer, you're a happy idiot in love by the pool. You dive in, the water's so warm it feels lazy. You go to the beach, you sleep in, let the kid watch cartoons, stagger out to the surf about noon. You cook fresh fish on the grill at sundown, the green of the bottle of chardonnay holding the light, condensation beading off the neck of the bottle. You set it back in the ice, your palm is cold. You suck off the water dripping from your pinky. You're going to live forever.

The calendar flips to August, and what? The heat slaps you around. You wilt. You stand under a cold shower and then read the kid stories in bed, under the ceiling fan, both of you staying up late because you can, it's summer, still light out. You wait for the spouse to come tell you to turn off the light and knock it off and she never does. The light holds in the upper branches of the trees, holds and holds.

And then one day the wind breathes across your shoulder.

Walking out of work, you see how the light slants across the steel and glass canyons of downtown at an angle that was just not present the day before. Sweat does not pool in the small of your back. The air is crisp; the lights of evening games at RFK come up sooner against the encroaching darkness.

When you were younger, it was easier to love this time of year. Football. Friday nights. Girls with their hair down, sitting too close to their dates in the front seat, driving too fast, sunlight gone.

Two decades on, you sit in a narrow back yard, the cool flagstone patio underfoot, the light fading, the trees rustling, and then you rattle the whiskey and ice in your glass and read in the failing light. You wait now for the coming of autumn, the leaves falling in earnest, the evening glow of late October, settling in for the chill.

Summer is over, honey. It's gone.

The leaves don't lie: Summer's just about out of here.