I have a question about using could and could have in rhetorical questions.
I was watching a video where a very old man who was talking to a priest about his childhood asked the priest, “How could I tell my father what music meant to me?” as a rhetorical question.
In this context, it is clear that it was completely impossible for him to have told his father what music meant to him.
Therefore “telling his father what music meant to him” did NOT happen, so he was talking to the priest about an event that had not happened.
As far as I know, “could have” is used for an event in the past that did not turn out to happen. For example, when I say I could run in the past, this means I possessed the ability to run, so this is about something that in reality DID happen.
However, when I say I could have run, this means despite my ability to run, I did not run. So this is about something that did NOT happen in reality, but which I am saying it could hypothetically have happened.
Accordingly, when I say I could not run, this is about something that did NOT happen in reality. And when I say I could not have run, this is about something that did NOT happen in reality and means even hypothetically it was impossible.
So when I ask “How I could run?”, I understand it is a question about how I had the ability to run. But when I ask “How I could have run?”, I understand it is a hypothetical question about how I would have had an ability to run that I did not in reality possess.
The difference I see between two is that when I ask “How I could run?”, my running in the past DID happen. But when I ask “How I could have run?”, my running did NOT happen but it could have happened if only some circumstances had been met.
So my question is why the old man asked “How could I tell him what music meant to me?” instead of asking “How could I have told him what music meant to me?”, since telling his father did NOT happen, and, as far as I can understand, he was talking about a purely hypothetical situation.
What am I missing?