Keeping a damaged brain alive may be the greatest act of friendship.
Curcio ended the romantic relationship.
"I thought it was important that he have a friend more than anything else," he says.
They continued to live together. And Curcio's primary focus became tending to his new best friend.
Curcio was unemployed, having recently filed a discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, a Collingswood, N.J., high school.
Hardt burned through a string of jobs that never lasted long: stock boy at a hardware store, McDonald's table cleaner, rug shop assistant, grocery store bagger. He would uncontrollably snap and start yelling, then get fired. One time, while bagging groceries, he hit a woman over the head with a bag.
Curcio and Hardt were broke.
"We were five months behind in rent," Curcio remembers.
Caring for Hardt is a full-time job. He forgets things, becomes disoriented, explodes into outbursts and about once a week has seizures that can last up to five minutes.
They finally registered Hardt for Medicare and received financial assistance. Curcio found work. A personal care attendant (PCA) was hired to ensure Hardt's safety while Curcio was at the office.
Things were fine until the attendant called out sick, then quit altogether. Four attendants quit over two years. With each disappearing attendant, Curcio would miss time from his job counseling HIV patients.
"We couldn't find quality help," Curcio recalls. "The money's low, like $9 per hour. There are no benefits."
The unreliable care meant that after Curcio came home from his job, he'd still have to arrange Hardt's medical appointments, establish his diet and develop exercises to keep Hardt's brain functioning.
It was like working two jobs.
In 2007 Curcio quit his counseling job, earned his certification and became Hardt's PCA.
"My job is to keep his brain alive," Curcio says proudly.
Anytime Hardt is awake, Curcio is on the job. They work on hand-eye coordination, reading comprehension, memory retention and physical fitness, among other activities.
Curcio starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. He earns $10 per hour, for an eight-hour day, and there's no overtime. He works seven days a week.
"I don't have a salary that's anything equal to what I'm doing as a job," Curcio says.